tion Association, 2000), in partnership with other federal agencies. When a mission project has cross-agency support (such as the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope, supported by NASA and the Department of Energy), the project-related education and public outreach work has had support from both agencies for a coordinated project. The committee concludes that collaboration between NASA and other agencies on education is most effective when it is driven by shared interests in the science and technology that are the focus of the work.

The committee suggests that consideration be given to developing a mechanism for federal science agencies to exchange knowledge about successful K-12 STEM education efforts. However, although some coordination at the federal level could be valuable, especially in regard to the most effective use of resources, at the project level coordination with state and local education agencies and the relevant national organizations can be equally important. It does not appear that the expertise of such groups is being effectively used either to plan or to implement NASA education programs and projects.

CONCLUDING NOTE

NASA makes significant contributions to K-12 STEM education by providing access to its expertise in science, engineering, technology, and space exploration. It is uniquely positioned to inspire and engage students in STEM subjects and to expose teachers and students to the nature of science and engineering through exposure to the agency’s missions. The committee respects NASA’s intentions and applauds many aspects of existing projects. However, as our review and evaluation show, the current K-12 STEM education program does not fully take advantage of NASA’s unique and valuable educational resources. Steps need to be taken to give the K-12 STEM program and its constituent projects greater impact through sustained partnerships, more effective use of technology, and a culture of ongoing program improvement that includes both internal formative evaluation and periodic external evaluation. The committee’s recommendations outline more specifically the steps the agency can take to improve its K-12 STEM education projects.

The K-12 STEM education program in the headquarters Office of Education is to be commended for its efforts to inspire and engage students in science and engineering and to position its projects so that they can best serve students from underrepresented groups. The Science Mission Directorate programs are to be commended for their close integration with the science missions of NASA and for their use of partnerships to bring educational expertise into their work. A balance of both types of work should be continued, and each should learn from the best practices of others both inside and outside the agency.



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