“This is true for the Common Core, and it’s going to be just as true for the Next Generation Science Standards, where we have an even bigger opportunity.” Discussions about policy often get stuck on the barriers to collaboration, said Peck. More time needs to be spent determining what is a real barrier and what is a perceived barrier and how creative solutions can overcome both, she said, noting that “strong leadership is absolutely essential to all of this.”
During the discussion session, Justin Duffy, a STEM specialist with World Learning in Brattleboro, Vermont, asked how the lessons derived from the convocation could be applied across socioeconomic and racial lines so that all schools and students benefit from the integration of STEM learning. Bevan emphasized the importance of examples that can serve as visual talking points and the need to have conversations across sectors. “We don’t have those at this point. We have pockets of activity, but it is not integrated into the mainstream conversation about STEM education,” she responded.
Christopher Roe, chief executive officer with the California STEM Learning Network in San Francisco, asked about the role of “backbone” organizations in supporting and sustaining an integrated approach. Peck referred to the role of intermediaries at the local or regional level in facilitating and brokering conversations and in directing attention to the policy arena. Both the public and private funding sectors can help create more of that infrastructure, she opined. These intermediaries also can leverage public resources to get the most out of public investments.
On this topic, Linda Ortenzo, director of STEM programs at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, described the Chevron Center for STEM Education and Career Development, which takes into account all of the major STEM programs in the area and includes a teacher excellence academy.4 She said this effort has created a group of people who represent all of those stakeholders in the STEM learning system. It also has created a process for schools to evaluate their STEM education programs and figure out how to increase integration, which it now is piloting with three different school districts. “The goal is to give schools rails to run on, not a prescription, to allow for diversity but to give them guidance to get to the place where we’d all like to see the whole ecosystem go,” she explained.
Finally, Bevan urged that groups interested in influencing policy work through state associations of school boards, given the difficulty of work-