OSTP Releases Federal STEM Education Portfolio

In the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, Congress called upon OSTP to oversee creation of a detailed catalogue of all Federal STEM education programs. Today, in response, OSTP released The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Portfolio, a comprehensive listing of STEM education investments curated by Federal agencies. The report is a product of the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (CoSTEM) of the National Science and Technology Council, the cabinet-level interagency group that coordinates Federal science and technology policy and is administered by OSTP.

The newly released Portfolio—the most detailed inventory of the Federal STEM education portfolio ever compiled—reveals that the Federal government draws upon a remarkably wide range of unique assets to support STEM education. This range includes astronauts who serve as inspiring “STEM ambassadors,” a majestic array of ecologically diverse National Parks that host a variety of experiential learning opportunities, and a nationwide network of STEM professors who receive Federal research funds and host visiting students and teachers in their labs.

Development of the Portfolio benefitted from a cooperative process between the CoSTEM—whose membership consists of agency leaders—and agency staffers who run the many Federal STEM education programs.  To achieve the highest possible level of scientific rigor, the committee developed a precise definition of STEM education and a detailed survey instrument to collect pertinent data about programs.  

Among the Portfolio’s essential findings:

  • The overall Federal investment in STEM education for fiscal year 2010 was $3.4 billion, or about 0.3 percent of the Nation’s total education budget of $1.1 trillion.
  • About one-third of that $3.4 billion directly benefits students from groups currently underrepresented in STEM, addressing a major Obama Administration goal to develop a STEM workforce that reflects the full diversity of the Nation.
  • About one-third of the $3.4 billion funds 113 investments that are focused on various agencies’ specific workforce needs, and two-thirds is spent on 139 broader STEM education investments.
  • Of the broader investments, 87 percent of which are funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education:
    • 104 involve STEM-related internship opportunities;
    • 35 have as their primary objective the provision of training and certification in preparation for entry into the STEM workforce;
    • 99 either require or encourage public-private partnerships, and;
    • 24 support STEM teachers.

The report notes that these statistics cannot by themselves tell the story of how to increase the effectiveness of the Nation’s STEM education efforts. Indeed, CoSTEM is currently considering additional factors to inform the development of a 5-year, cross-agency, STEM education strategic plan for achieving a more targeted portfolio of STEM education investments, as called for in the COMPETES Act. That plan will address a variety of potential approaches to improving the Federal STEM education portfolio, including consolidating programs, creating joint solicitations across agencies, and developing structures and procedures for sharing program data and performance measurement and evaluation tools.

Federal agencies have an important role to play in STEM education in the United States, but they—and their programs outlined in the Portfolio—are just part of a larger STEM education ecosystem that depends heavily on state and local education authorities as well as corporate and non-profit efforts. The Obama Administration remains strongly committed to out-educating the global competition in the arena of STEM subjects, which are so important to the future of America and its leadership position in the world.

You can download the full report here.

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