“With all the attention to poor U.S. student achievement in math and science, the questions that Congress put to the National Science Foundation (NSF) 18 months ago tackles the problem from the opposite direction: What is the United States doing right in precollege science and math education? And what can the rest of the country learn from the schools that do it best?
This week an expert panel, convened by the National Academies’ National Research Council to answer those questions put to NSF, held a workshop in Washington, D.C., to explore “successful STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education in K-12 schools.” Although the panel’s report won’t be out for another month or so, the overriding message from workshop participants seemed clear—and perhaps not surprising: A successful science and math school is a successful school first, with skilled, knowledgeable teachers who address the needs of all students in a supportive, resource-rich environment. Anything that dilutes those ingredients—budget cuts, poor teacher preparation and professional development, a disregard for low-achieving students, to name three factors—will lower the chances of success. And none of the elements is enough to make a difference by itself.”