This week we’re at the US News STEM Solutions Summit in Dallas, a convening of major players in STEM education as well as STEM-related employment.
The Afterschool Alliance is a co-chair for this event and I am delighted by the success we have had in ensuring afterschool STEM learning is a part of this conversation! We participated in a panel discussion on “Accelerating STEM Education,” where we emphasized the role afterschool programs play in STEM education. Our Executive Director Jodi Grant was also invited to participate in a keynote panel “Making STEM Cool After School” alongside NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Tessie Topol from Time Warner Cable and Tim Daly from The Creative Coalition.
Afterschool is increasingly a part of the STEM education conversation; we can all take great pride that we have been able to move the ball this far. But the rubber meets the road when federal or state legislation is written and new programs and initiatives are launched. Afterschool and the unique type of learning environment it provides for STEM must be considered an integral partner as we increase and improve STEM education opportunities for children and youth. To this end we have been working on two sets of policy recommendations to ensure that afterschool is included in the STEM education reform strategies of policy makers and federal science agencies.
The first set of recommendations is addressed to the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. This committee is charged with developing a five-year Strategic Federal STEM Education Plan that coordinates federal investment in STEM education through the science agencies. The Afterschool Alliance provided comments on a set of draft “Design Principles for Federal STEM Education Investments” to inform the committee’s final Strategic Plan and also took the opportunity to submit a letter offering suggestions and recommendations for how the STEM education funding streams of science agencies could strategically and coherently invest in afterschool STEM programs.
The second set of recommendations are addressed to federal policy makers as they debate ESEA reauthorization and seek to introduce STEM education-related bills. We recommend that Congress authorize a pilot program to support afterschool STEM programs targeting underrepresented populations. We also recommend that policy makers view afterschool programs as partners to schools and teachers in STEM education initiatives and explicitly include them as such in funding streams.
In the coming months, we will use these recommendations to guide our discussion with the White House and Capitol Hill. Please feel free to use these recommendations as talking points for discussions with your own state and local policy makers and funders. It is time for afterschool STEM learning to be a part of the mainstream strategy for increasing engagement with STEM fields and careers.