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New Report Recommends More STEM After School

After-school initiatives figure prominently in a new report on STEM education from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The Obama administration is pressing for more attention to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives in and out of school. The report, unveiled by President Obama at the White House last week, calls for a variety of new federal steps. These include establishing a national STEM Master Teacher Corps that recognizes and rewards strong teachers; supporting the creation of 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade; and launching a coordinated initiative to support a wide range of STEM-based after-school and extended-day activities, my colleague Erik Robelen reports in the current issue of Education Week.

The White House panel cites the importance of offering high-quality out-of-class and extended day STEM options both for at-risk and high-achieving students and says such programs "are especially important for members of groups underrepresented in science and engineering, including girls, African-Americans, and Hispanics."

The report also asserts that the federal role in such programs should be "significant." Working together, the council states, the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation "should develop a coordinated initiative" dubbed INSPIRE, which would focus on "individualized, transforming experiences with STEM subjects." In addition to supporting after-school and extended-day programs, INSPIRE could support boosting the number of local, state, and national STEM contests for students.

In an interesting twist considering recent developments on Capitol Hill, the council also recommends "targeting a portion" of funding for the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program to STEM efforts. A proposal in a Senate appropriations bill actually would increase funding for the learning centers programs, but it would also expand the scope of the effort to cover longer school days and years, as well as after-school and other out-of-school learning.

The report's authors write: "These community centers could provide enriching experiences in STEM if instructors were provided with engaging materials and the preparation and guidance to use those materials."

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