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Federal STEM Education Programs Lack Coordination, Watchdog Finds

Education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics continue to be a priority for federal legislators, agencies, and even President Donald Trump. But according to a report released Friday, the group charged with coordinating the myriad federal STEM programs shirked several key duties, making it harder to assess the fruits of that investment.

In 2010 Congress created the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics within the executive branch to share best practices across the agencies and get a better sense of which programs were paying off for students. The goal was ultimately to help agencies make better decisions about which programs they might want to expand or eliminate.

So did the committee fulfill its mandate? The Government Accountsbility Office—the federal government's watchdog arm—drew these conclusions in the new report.

  • 13 different federal agencies administered about 163 programs that include a STEM education component at the K-12, undergraduate, or graduate level, totaling nearly $3 billion in funding in all. 
  • Nearly every program overlapped with another program—for example, serving the same field, objective, or groups, though many served different subpopulations or had different areas of emphasis.
  • The Committee on STEM Education did not review or document performance evaluations of the STEM programs, nor did it report the programs' participation rates for underrepresented groups, even though much of that information was available from the agencies. 

In a response to the report, Jeff Weld, the assistant director for STEM Education at the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, which oversees the committee, wrote that "fragmentation has been reduced and cross-agency partnerships have coalesced." 

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