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In order to provide students the opportunity to pursue depth in their K-12 studies, states should substantially pare the breadth requirements and mandatory course lists required for high school graduation. Testing a sampling of students on key skills needed, before and after taking specific courses, should indicate the extent to which a course advances a key skill and therefore should be mandated...
One way to increase the ability of STEM students to pursue their interests more deeply and to better customize learning would be to allow students to more easily test out of classes. One way to do this would be for Congress to tie ESEA funding to states’ adoption of competency-based credit systems. In competency-based credit systems, students receive credit for subject matter learned by taking...
Currently, high schools are focused on teaching content (e.g., history, geography, English literature) and not skills (e.g., reading for information, locating information, and applied mathematics). This is reinforced by accountability measures based on content-based tests. Skills-based assessments should replace the NAEP and NCLB subject-matter-based tests for high schoolers. The Department of...
Ph.D. support mechanisms will have little effect on students’ career decisions if students are not aware of these mechanisms. NSF, NASA, DOD, DHS and other agencies that provide Ph.D. fellowships, scholarships and/or assistantships to STEM students should conduct a joint market survey of currently enrolled B.S. students to determine whether students are even aware of these opportunities. If the...
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), is designed to obtain, on an annual basis, information from more than 1,300 colleges about student participation in programs and activities that those institutions offer for learning and personal development. Unfortunately, few colleges and universities report their institution’s scores. To change that, Congress should require that as a “check off...
Some kinds of STEM teaching methods have been shown to generate much better learning outcomes than others. But more extensive evaluation of best methods is needed. Toward that end Congress should allocate $5 million in construction costs and $2.5 million in annual operating costs to NSF for them to contract with an organization to build a showcase “STEM Test Kitchen,” perhaps located adjacent to...
State boards of education should either abandon textbook adoption criteria entirely–and leave purchasing decisions to individual schools–or adopt new criteria that apply equally well to all learning media and that speak to skills outcomes rather than topic coverage. Substituting proof that the product improves individual learning outcomes—rather simply covering a long checklist of topics—would...
More undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary research and teaching would increase both the quality and quantity of STEM graduates. Toward that end, federal agencies should eliminate bias against interdisciplinary work in their grant award criteria. Among other steps, they should include industry representation on review panels at more than a token level.
STEM degrees could be increased significantly if more freshmen who intended to major in STEM graduated with a STEM degree. Congress should appropriate $66M a year to the National Science Foundation, for five years; this would be matched one to two by a major philanthropy, to be awarded as prizes funds to colleges and universities that have dramatically increased the rate at which their freshmen...
Keeping STEM workers employed during sectoral or national downturns is key to maintaining adequate STEM workers. Toward that end, Congress should establish a furlough program for STEM employees in cyclic industries, whereby such employees could spend up to 18 months at a university or federal laboratory at a one-half to two-thirds pay rate. The funding for this program could come either through...
Moving to a more skills-based hiring system would make it easier for workers with STEM skills (but perhaps not with the “right” STEM degrees) to take STEM jobs. To do this Congress should appropriate funds for federal agencies to hold grant competitions in which professional societies or trade organizations would be asked to coordinate their industry sector’s move towards skills-based hiring. The...
Absent significant expansion of H-1B visas for STEM workers, Congress should establish a commission to manage H-1B visas and instruct it to create an H-1B visa system whose fees (or caps) float with unemployment rate by subfield/occupation. Alternatively, Congress could give the task of deriving an H-1B visa fee (cap) formula to the Department of Labor.
Moving STEM undergraduate and graduate education towards a more interdisciplinary model would not only attract more students to STEM, but also improve the quality of STEM education. For truly transformative change to a more interactive, interdisciplinary model of STEM education, NSF and NIH should allocate grants of up to $10M/year for institutional transformation.
To ensure the widest possible reach of this STEM talent identification program, the federal government, foundations and/or corporations should sponsor the creation of national science videogames, much as the military sponsored the creation of “America’s Army” videogame for recruiting purposes. The “high scorers” in these videogames and those who comment intelligently on associated forums could be...
The United States should move from a weak, potentially expensive, and socially inequitable system of STEM talent self-identification, to a thorough, effective, and more equitable system of directed STEM talent recruiting. Identifying, recruiting, and promoting STEM talent from our nation’s high schools should become a systematic national endeavor, similar to NCAA basketball recruiting. A key way...