Tuesday, 24 May, 2011

Triangle Coalition Recommends Changes to the Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act

The Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) could soon be replaced with a new program that would provide states the option to include technology and engineering in K-12 education.

In his FY 2012 budget, President Obama proposed replacing the $180 million MSP with a $206 million comprehensive STEM program. Shortly thereafter, the Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act of 2011 (S. 463) was introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and currently has five co-sponsors.

The legislation is intended to replace the U.S. Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnerships (part B of title II) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with a program entitled Effective Teaching and Learning: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

The Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act has similar goals to the MSP program, but would target funds to students in high-need districts and states through competitive grants, rather than the traditional formula grants. It would also encourage states to include technology and engineering in K-12 education and grant priority to states that have adopted and are implementing college-and-career-ready standards.

While Triangle Coalition supports the bill’s inclusion of technology and engineering education, the competitive grant structure is a point of concern as it could mean that some states, including some with very effective MSP programs, will be at risk and may lose funding. The recent competitive programs, Race to the Top and i3, give us some insight into the difficulties states, particularly rural states, have in these types of competitions.

The bill, as introduced, would require state grantees to use at least 80% of funds for competitive subgrants to STEM partnerships between districts and other community-based organizations. These subgrants would have to be used to implement high-quality, evidence-based, comprehensive, and coherent STEM programs in high-need schools. The programs must include professional development; program monitoring; and curriculum, instructional materials, and assessment systems that are aligned with state standards.

The rest of the grant money would be allocated for STEM activities at the state-level.

“Graduating from high school prepared for college and careers in this new economy means having a solid grounding in STEM,” said Sen. Begich in a statement on this legislation. “But those subjects are not just for future scientists and engineers. A STEM education is essential preparation for all students – in order to help them succeed and keep our nation competitive.”

We applaud Senator Begich for his leadership in STEM education and for taking steps towards the promotion of sound STEM education programs through this bill, as well as by recently co-sponsoring the Engineering Education (E2) for Innovation Act (S. 969).

We also urge the Senate to explore the possibility of allowing a percentage of funds to be distributed under block grant formulas to the states to support the continuation of existing, or the implementation of proven programs at the state level. The remaining, smaller percentage of funds could then be set aside for competitive grants to states or districts, working in conjunction with partners, such as institutions of higher education or non-profit organizations, to attempt bold new initiatives with promise for not only success, but also replication and dissemination.This letter to Senator Begich further describes the recommendations that Triangle Coalition has for S. 463.

Triangle Coalition is looking for organizations to endorse these recommendations. If your organization would like to submit a letter, sign on to this letter, or provide other feedback to Sen. Begich on this bill, please respond to Triangle Coalition, guelzowa@triangle-coalition.org.

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