AERA Responds to Call for Information on Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan
AERA Responds to Call for Information on Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan

October  2020

On October 19, AERA submitted comments in response to a request for information (RFI) on STEM education advanced by the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM). Along with NSTC, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) sought feedback on the implementation and potential future directions of the federal five-year STEM education strategic plan, last updated in 2018.

The RFI included 24 questions centered on the pathways and goals in the strategic plan, as well as on how organizations in STEM education were responding to the adjustments made to education due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The orientation of the RFI was more directed to the work of organizations and entities in the K-12 space, although higher education was mentioned,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “In crafting the AERA response, we took the educative opportunity to also address higher education and science education for the scientific workforce, including in fields like ours.”

AERA’s response focused on several areas:

  • Future Opportunities in STEM Education
  • Develop STEM Education Digital Resources
  • Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM
  • Engage Students Where Disciplines Converge
  • Building Computational Literacy
  • Community Use and Implementation of the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan

Questions under each of the topics sought input on how organizations are working toward the goals and pathways of the strategic plan.

AERA’s comments highlighted several initiatives. These include the AERA-ICPSR PEERS Data Hub, the Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program, the recent special call for the Education Research Service Projects initiative addressing the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, and an effort with the National Center for Education Statistics to provide information to the education research community on building partnerships with state agencies for using administrative data.

The AERA response highlighted needs for research and data to provide understanding of the impact that the pandemic has had on STEM teaching and learning; it also highlighted efforts that NSF and the Institute of Education Sciences have undertaken to provide resources on online learning. AERA praised the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics for their ongoing efforts to include questions related to COVID-19 on surveys. AERA also referenced its own initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.

On the topics of transdisciplinary convergence and the implementation of the federal STEM education strategic plan, AERA urged that education science and the broader social and behavioral sciences be included in discipline-based education research and in the inventory of the investment in federal STEM programs. OSTP’s 2019 progress report on the implementation of the strategic plan used a definition for identifying STEM education investments in the federal government that excluded the social and behavioral sciences.

AERA urged OSTP “to update this definition to include education science (beyond education technology) and the social and behavioral sciences as STEM for the purposes of identifying ‘STEM education programs, investments, and activities.’ Explicit attention to these fields will ensure that these sciences are included and represented in data on STEM education programs reported by federal agencies.”

“We encourage Highlights readers to consider our submission in response to this RFI,” said Levine. “The core of the letter is devoted to the issues set forth as priorities for comment but we also addressed the narrowness of the definition of STEM education that functionally excludes education research and other social science fields. This situation is unacceptable both as a matter of sound science and because of the limitations it places on the publics we serve.”