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Academic Competitiveness Council Finds Little Scientific Evidence Backs Federally-Funded Math and Science Education Programs


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today released the findings of the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC) and its recommendations to integrate and coordinate federal education programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Deficit Reduction Act, signed into law by President Bush in February 2006, established the Academic Competitiveness Council, led by Secretary Spellings, to review all federal programs with a focus on math and science education and to report its findings to Congress.

“We must all work together to give students the math and science skills they need to compete and thrive in the global economy,” Secretary Spellings said. “Currently there are more than 100 programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education spread across 13 agencies, yet little is known about the impact of these programs on student performance. That’s why as Congress considers competitiveness legislation I urge them to review the ACC report and focus investments in programs that demonstrate measurable effects on student achievement or fill gaps in the large portfolio of existing programs.”

The Council’s review revealed that, despite decades of significant federal investment in science and math education, there is a general dearth of evidence of effective practices and activities in STEM education. When these recommendations are implemented, our knowledge of effective math and science education practices will grow, American students will benefit and the nation’s overall competitiveness will be strengthened.

“The Administration’s goal is to increase America’s competitiveness in the global economy by ensuring the greatest return from the government’s investment in math and science education programs,” Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman said. “The work of the Council will help agencies integrate rigorous evaluations in science and math education programs, so that the impact of the federal investment is measurable and more positive.”

The statute charged the Council to:

Identify all federal programs with a mathematics or science education focus;
Identify the effectiveness of those programs;
Determine areas of overlap or duplication among those programs;
Identify target populations served by such programs; and,
Recommend processes to efficiently integrate and coordinate those programs.
Based on data provided by the agencies and validated by the Office of Management and Budget, the Council created an inventory of federal math, science, engineering and technology programs, including the populations served by each program. Among the 105 STEM education programs totaling $3.12 billion in fiscal year 2006, 45 programs have a goal to recruit and retain teachers with majors or minors in STEM fields or to increase the content knowledge of current K-12 STEM teachers. Pre-service teachers are a target population in 22 programs and in-service teachers are a target population in 39 programs. Only 1 percent of ACC program funding is targeted solely to mathematics education.

Based on its analysis, the Council is making the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: The ACC program inventory and goals and metrics should be living resources, updated regularly and used to facilitate stronger interagency coordination.

Recommendation 2: Agencies and the federal government at large should foster knowledge of effective practices through improved evaluation and-or implementation of proven-effective, research-based instructional materials and methods.

Recommendation 3: Federal agencies should improve the coordination of their K-12 STEM education programs with states and local school systems.

Recommendation 4: Federal agencies should adjust program designs and operations so that programs can be assessed and measurable results can be achieved, consistent with the programs’ goals.

Recommendation 5: Funding for federal STEM education programs designed to improve STEM education outcomes should not increase unless a plan for rigorous, independent evaluation is in place, appropriate to the types of activities funded.

Recommendation 6: Agencies with STEM education programs should collaborate on implementing ACC recommendations under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).


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