STEM Education Advisory Panel Addresses Needs and Challenges in the Midst of Covid-19
STEM Education Advisory Panel Addresses Needs and Challenges in the Midst of Covid-19

April 2020

On April 15, the federal STEM Education Advisory Panel held a virtual meeting, hearing updates from leaders of the agencies that coordinate the activities of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (CoSTEM).

Karen Marrongelle, assistant director of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, detailed NSF’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. NSF has created a Covid-19 resource page that includes extended deadline dates and guidance for NSF grantees, frequently asked questions for peer review panelists, and NSF-supported research on COVID-19.

Marrongelle also highlighted what she has been hearing from EHR program officers about concerns on continuing research that the directorate funds, including delays in data collection; how to document and collect data in ethical and practical ways; and continuing access to remote learning, including uneven access—an exacerbation of inequities brought on by school closures. 

Mike Kincaid, associate administrator of the Office of STEM Engagement at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), described how NASA is responding to the pandemic, including providing parent-oriented resources for STEM education by grade level, and determining how to handle internships during the summer. 

Panel members echoed the concerns about equity and the need to bridge the digital divide, issues that the pandemic has thrust into the spotlight. They detailed additional concerns they see in STEM education due to Covid-19. These include the uncertainty of a potential school restart in states that have not closed schools for the remainder of this academic year; teachers feeling overwhelmed by the number of teaching resources available, disrupting the perception that all students learn the same in a distance learning environment; and the need for partnerships for wraparound services, among several others.

Panel members also received updates on CoSTEM activities. Cindy Hasselbring, assistant director for STEM education at the White House Office and Science Technology Policy (OSTP), provided an update on the development of the 2020 CoSTEM progress report. The report will highlight progress in establishing partnerships with industry and the alignment of the federal investment in STEM education programs with the goals of the federal five-year STEM education strategic plan

The progress report is expected to be out by June. In addition, later this year, a request for information will be released to gather input from the public on priorities in online resources, diversity and inclusion, computational literacy, and Covid-19.

Panel members also heard about progress on the development of a “hub” website with federal and nonfederal STEM education resources and on interagency working groups focusing on convergence, strategic partnerships, computational literacy, transparency and accountability, and inclusion in STEM.

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