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NOAA’s Education Program: Review and Critique
NOAA’s role in education,
its education goals and outcomes,
the composition and management of its education portfolio,
its education evaluation practice, and
the impact of its education efforts.
The committee followed an iterative process of gathering information, analyzing and deliberating on it, identifying gaps and questions, gathering additional information to fill these gaps, and carrying out further analysis. A contract between NOAA and NRC determined time and resources available for the study and constrained the scope of the committee’s review to existing documentation, site visits, testimony from NOAA staff, and commissioned papers. The resulting report provides a summary of the national education context for NOAA’s role in education (Chapter 2) and of the education strategic plan and its strengths and weaknesses (Chapter 3). It also describes the individual education projects (Chapter 4). In Chapter 5, the education evaluation approach of the agency is described, and suggestions for improving the process are provided. The final chapter presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations.
NOAA’S ROLE IN EDUCATION
The national need to educate the public about the ocean, coastal resources, atmosphere, and climate and to support workforce development in related fields is well established. The federal government role in addressing these needs as part of the national effort is also widely accepted.
NOAA’s role in education has been recognized for approximately 30 years, as evidenced by the mandates to engage in education activities given to individual operating branches and programs, and more recently by the America COMPETES Act. The agency has a broad mandate to engage in and coordinate education and stewardship initiatives related to ocean, Great Lakes, climate, and atmospheric science, as well as other fields related to its mission. NOAA must fulfill these responsibilities in the context of a national effort, implemented at state and local levels. The agency must use formal and informal learning environments to improve learning and understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to advance environmental education.
Although NOAA is unique among federal agencies in its focus on stewardship and on ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, atmospheric, and climate science, its mission overlaps with and complements the missions of other federal agencies. Many federal agencies, institutions of higher education, and private and nonprofit organizations have additional resources that help improve the nation’s understanding and interest in the relevant sciences