FIGURE 1-1 A framework for understanding what constitutes success in K-12 STEM education.
work for understanding what constitutes success in K-12 STEM education, which guided the planning for the workshop. This framework, shown in Figure 1-1, depicts the factors that influence the effectiveness of STEM education. For example, the context in which education takes place—the upper-most box—determines the curriculum, the resources, the priorities, and students’ expectations and motivation. The program’s specific goals, such as preparing top students for advanced study and challenging careers, reducing achievement gaps, and/or improving math and science literacy for all students, for example, would then dictate the standards by which the program is judged. Schools and programs have very different structures and these also must be taken into account, as must specific conditions and practices within programs. Measuring success also entails identifying specific indicators of desired outcomes. Test scores are frequently used, but course taking, college readiness and performance, choice of major, and choices and performance in the workforce are some of the other outcomes that must be considered. The workshop sessions explored these points and the available research.
Means noted that with only about 40 percent of students leaving high school prepared for college-level mathematics, “we need to do a much, much better job with many more students.” What is needed is a system that is highly effective for each of the purposes and goals of STEM education, and effective for different students in different contexts. There are no easy answers, she added, and in many cases there is no solid evidence at all about best practices. The workshop presenters were asked to highlight both what is and is not known, to frame the problem, and to help identify the next steps for the research that is needed to answer the questions.