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Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

Updated 1/18/17 – Click here for a Dear Colleague Letter which was released to states, school districts, schools and education partners on how to maximize federal funds to support and enhance innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for all students. The letter includes links to the Every Student Succeeds Act and updates a letter, which was initially released on 4/13/16. Both letters are intended to serve as resources for decreasing equity and opportunity gaps in STEM and give examples of how federal funds—through formula grant programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—can support efforts to improve instruction and student outcomes in STEM fields. The signed version of the updated letter can be found here. The signed version of the original letter can be found here.

In an ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it’s more important than ever that our nation’s youth are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These are the kinds of skills that students develop in science, technology, engineering and math—disciplines collectively known as STEM. If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, then experts agree that building students’ skills, content knowledge and fluency in STEM fields is essential. We must also make sure that, no matter where children live, they have access to quality learning environments. A child’s zip code should not determine their STEM fluency. We are working towards an equitable distribution of STEM programs to ensure that children in all parts of the country have a fair chance to reach their potential and contribute to society.

Our Mission

STEM learning is important for everyone.  The relevant, real-life skills that people develop when learning STEM subjects help make everyone better problem-solvers and citizens. To achieve the vision of STEM literacy for all, the Office of STEM Team at the U.S. Department of Education seeks to:

  • Maximize access to high-quality STEM education for all students, from pre-k through post-secondary students, both in and outside the classroom.
  • Inspire and prepare all students to achieve proficiency in the STEM disciplines and to consider pursuing careers in STEM fields.
  • Support educators who teach STEM subjects to ensure they have access to the tools and resources they need to prepare students with the STEM skills needed for college, career and life.
  • Identify and support the implementation of innovative and scalable approaches and research strategies that improve the effectiveness of STEM education in formal and informal learning environments.

We seek to improve access to quality STEM education for all students, particularly students from groups that have historically been underserved in the STEM fields, including students in low income communities, students of color, females, students living in rural communities, and students with special educational needs. To accomplish this we will focus on the following seven priority areas:

  1. Improve the P-20 experience for all students, especially underserved students.
  2. Enhance access to high quality out-of-school and informal STEM learning experiences that build upon and complement formal, classroom-based learning experiences.
  3. Support teachers who teach STEM subjects (with an emphasis on expanding the scope of P-20 STEM to include Pre-K and computer science).
  4. Collaborate across multiple sectors, particularly innovative media, to increase awareness of, and interest in STEM disciplines and careers and connect STEM to real-life and to the work force.
  5. Increase students’ access to community-based resources by identifying and connecting to STEM-focused initiatives with similar or complementary goals, such as the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative.
  6. Bring together research communities focused on formal and informal STEM learning to identify effective tools, strategies and programs that can be used in new and innovative ways to enhance student interest, motivation and learning.
  7. Identify knowledge gaps and work to fill those gaps through innovative research practices, thus expanding the evidence base for promising practices in STEM education.

How We’re Investing in STEM

Learn more about the importance of STEM education by visiting ed.gov/stem.