Policy Resources

Commission Releases Policymaker’s STEM Playbook

In some states, STEM policymaking efforts have not achieved their intended results, often due to initiatives lacking one or more of the following essential elements: statewide coordination, adequate funding and evaluation. That is the latest analysis from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), which recently published a report that examines one state’s success in implementing STEM policy and offers key practices for other policymakers.

In the “Promising Practices in Education” report, ECS focuses on STEM policy efforts within Utah. In 2013, the state established the Utah STEM Action Center, which fuels research and implementation of STEM education best practices throughout the state. Prior to the center, Utah school districts were purchasing supplemental math learning tools, but had no data on whether the products would yield desired outcomes. The center allowed districts to test a wide variety of products and even set specific qualifications for products, according to the report.

ECS identifies three critical steps taken in developing and implementing the Utah STEM Action Center:

  • Coordination – Utah needed to align education efforts with industry talent needs;
  • Resources – Conversations about talent needs led state leaders to leverage resources across K–12, postsecondary, business and industry; and
  • Evaluation – Policymakers examined long-term STEM programs to determine their impact.

Additional components that were critical to the center’s success, according to the report, include communications; marketing and positioning; partnerships and liaisons; and funding.

“While we’ve seen a number of well-intentioned state efforts to advance STEM education, all too often those investments don’t see the intended return on investment because policies or initiatives are missing one or more of the three key elements,” said Jennifer Zinth, director of high school and STEM at ECS, in a statement. “States that incorporate these three elements into state-level STEM efforts may be more likely to see the outcomes they’re hoping for, including better alignment of STEM education efforts with workforce needs.”

The full report is available on the Education Commission of the States site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].