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STEM Holds First Meeting

October 01, 2006

The National Science Board, the 24-member independent advisory body to the President and Congress on matters of national science and engineering policy, recently established a commission to set new directions for U.S. education from early childhood through undergraduate education (preK-16). The board also serves as the oversight and policy-setting body of the National Science Foundation.

The newly formed Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) held its first meeting recently at the National Science Foundation’s headquarters in Arlington, VA.

Last year, Congress asked the National Science Board to evaluate the need to reconstitute its 1982-83 Commission on Pre-college Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology. In response, the board held three public hearings nationwide to assess the need and interest within the STEM education community for a new commission. The response was overwhelmingly strong to create such a panel to address what many called a national crisis in STEM education. After reviewing the public hearing comments and testimony, the board established the commission in March 2006, and soon thereafter announced its membership and chairs.

The new commission’s charter already points to an agenda that goes beyond those of many previous studies documenting detailed systemic issues in STEM education and offering recommendation-based but not action-heavy conclusions. This commission is working toward a specific plan for nationwide action that the National Science Board will report to Congress as well as public and private stakeholders in the educational system.

The commission expects to outline specific needs of the nation in STEM education at preK-16, although the bulk of its work is expected to focus on K-12 issues. It will also recommend mechanisms to implement an “effective, realistic, affordable and politically acceptable long-term” approach, and “effectively employ Federal resources cooperatively with those of stakeholders,” public and private. The overall charge to the commission can be viewed at www.nsf.gov/nsb/edu_com/charge.pdf.

“Finding agreement across wide constituencies is never easy,” says Commission co-chair Shirley M. Malcom, who heads the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). “But we must act now.”

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