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NASA’s Elementary and Secondary Education Program: Review and Critique
fuels. For NASA, there is also a local issue as the agency faces an aerospace workforce that is skewed toward employees who are nearing retirement, as well as competition in recruiting job candidates with science and engineering degrees.
One response to these concerns has been to reexamine the role of federal science agencies in supporting and advancing STEM education for kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12). This study of NASA’s K-12 education portfolio provides an opportunity not only to examine NASA’s activities in grades K-12, but also to examine the larger issue of defining the appropriate role for science agencies in supporting improved K-12 STEM education.
THE COMMITTEE’S CHARGE AND APPROACH
The Committee to Review and Evaluate NASA’s Precollege Education Portfolio was established by the National Research Council (NRC) to undertake this study. The committee included 12 members with expertise in the history and structure of NASA education programs; program evaluation for a range of program types (specifically targeted to the kinds of projects in the NASA portfolio); science and mathematics instruction at both the elementary and secondary levels, with particular knowledge of earth and space sciences; teacher professional development; education policy and practice in science and mathematics at the state and local levels; and measurement. Special emphasis was given to identifying individuals for this committee who have a working knowledge of NASA as an organization, as well as knowledge of NASA’s Elementary and Secondary Education Program (see Appendix A for biographical sketches).
The study focused on the purposes identified by Congress in its charge to the study committee to “conduct a review and evaluation of NASA’s precollege science, technology and mathematics education program. The review and evaluation shall include such recommendations as the NRC determines will improve the effectiveness of the program and include
an evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall program in meeting its defined goals and objectives;
an assessment of the quality and educational effectiveness of the major components of the program, including an evaluation of the adequacy of assessment metrics and data collection requirements available for determining the effectiveness of individual projects;
an evaluation of the funding priorities in the program, including a review of the funding level and trend for each major component of the program and an assessment of whether the resources made available are consistent with meeting identified goals and priorities; and