in STEM education and urges the development of national STEM content guidelines and student assessments as part of an effort to encourage “horizontal coordination and coherence.” Although the current situation for K–12 engineering shows little evidence of coherence, working toward greater coherence is an important, long-term objective.
The committee believes that, ideally, all K–12 students in the United States should have the option of experiencing some form of formal engineering studies. We are a long way from that situation now.
RECOMMENDATION 6. Philanthropic foundations or federal agencies with an interest in STEM education and school reform should fund research to identify models of implementation for K–12 engineering education that embody the principles of coherence and can guide decision making that will work for widely variable American school systems. The research should explicitly address school populations that do not currently have access to engineering studies and take into account the different needs and circumstances of elementary and secondary school populations.
K–12 engineering also has policy and program implications for the articulation between high school and college. If K–12 engineering education emphasizes design activities, then two- and four-year post-secondary institutions may have to place early emphasis on design projects to avoid “turning off” students who expect that experience in their first year. Schools of engineering and other post-secondary institutions may also have to improve interactions among science, mathematics, and technology departments to accommodate the expectations of students who have experienced interconnected STEM education in high school.
Finally, the need for qualified teachers to teach engineering in K–12 classrooms raises a number of policy and program issues. Putting aside the uncertain definition of “qualified” in this context, it is not clear that solutions are available that can be funded, accommodated in the current structure of schools, and sustained. A variety of traditional and alternative mechanisms should be evaluated as part of the initiative suggested in Recommendation 4.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for K–12 engineering education can be made if it is not thought of as a topic unto itself, but rather as part of integrated STEM education (Box 6-1). After all, in the real world engineer-