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Senate Committee Narrowly Adopts STEM Education Amendment

April 20, 2015

The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently considered a series of amendments to the bipartisan bill, Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA). The base bill included engineering as a core academic subject which will foster a greater focus on engineering in K-12 classrooms. Only 29 of some 80 amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) reauthorization were adopted.

The National Center for Technological Literacy® actively supported introduction and adoption of the bipartisan STEM education amendment offered by Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Murray. The amendment, adopted by a 12-10 voice vote, reworks the existing U.S. Department of Education Math Science Partnership to be STEM-inclusive, including engineering and computer science. State applications for funding require an analysis of STEM subject outcomes, state workforce needs, and pre-service STEM teacher preparation. States can identify which subjects will be addressed based on their analyses, so there is no guarantee that all subjects will be addressed. The amendment also allows non-profit organizations, such as science centers, to compete for funds as a subgrantee.

Required state activities include increasing access to STEM content, implementing evidence-based instruction programs, and providing professional development (PD) for teachers and school leaders. States may use funds for teacher recruitment and induction, developing curricula, assessments, and a STEM Master Teacher Corps. Subgrantees shall offer teacher and leader PD, improve integration of informal and afterschool STEM programs, and develop, adopt and improve curricula aligned with state standards. Subgrantees may use funds to support low-income students in STEM competitions, enhance STEM career interest, and offer dual-enrollment in STEM courses. States may require matching funds from outside partners.

The HELP Committee approved the bill 22-0. Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray emphasized that bipartisanship is key to moving forward. The bill now awaits full Senate consideration, further amendments, and adoption before being conferenced with the more partisan House bill.

The Museum of Science, Boston

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