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STEM Education Advocates Outline Ideas for Revising ESEA

A broad-based coalition focused on improving STEM education is seeking to put its imprint on legislation to revamp the main federal law for K-12 schools, including with a call for science achievement to be considered alongside math and reading as a "core element" of the statute's accountability system.

In a letter sent to key lawmakers last week, the STEM Education Coalition argued that education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math plays a critical role in helping the United States to remain an economic leader.

"According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 15 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations projected for 2014 require preparation in STEM subjects," says the June 20 letter from the STEM Education Coalition. "If our nation is to keep up with our international peers, we absolutely must step up our efforts to improve STEM education."

The push to enhance the role of science in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's accountability framework comes as just last week the National Research Council issued a report that urged policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels to "elevate" science to the same level of importance and assessed with the same frequency as reading and math. (It also calls for the development of an assessment system better equipped to gauge science learning, with an emphasis on science practices rather than "mere factual recall.) You can get a quick overview of the report by checking out this EdWeek story, or access the full document here.

The letter also comes as the House Education and the Workforce Committee starts taking steps anew to reauthorize the ESEA (known in its most recent iteration as the No Child Left Behind Act. However, at this point, the chances appear slim that Congress will send a final plan to President Barack Obama's desk this year.

The STEM coalition put forward a variety of ideas to "improve" the ESEA, including:

• "Robust and dedicated programs to provide effective STEM-related professional development and preparation for educators and other educational innovation activities under Title II B" of the ESEA;

• Federal endeavors to "empower" each state to develop a comprehensive STEM education "action plan";

• Targeted undertakings to promote STEM-subject master teachers and teacher specialists; and

• Efforts to expand the diversity of the STEM pipeline and workforce, with an emphasis on underrepresented minorities and women.

The STEM coalition includes more than 100 member organizations and companies, from the National Science Teachers Association and American Chemical Society to the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Northrop Grumman Corp., and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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