Addressing Inequality in Prek-12 STEM Education

How can educators and policymakers confront and respond to systemic inequality in pre-K–12 STEM education and promote success for all students?

Students in the United States have unequal access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education opportunities. Systemic inequalities in access to high-quality instruction and advanced coursework are intertwined with stereotypes and biases about which students can succeed in STEM, therefore impacting academic and career outcomes for students who are excluded, including youth of color, English learners, and youth from low-income families. Efforts to address these inequalities often target a single STEM discipline, a limited span of grades, or a single component (e.g., curriculum) or level (e.g., school) of the system. With this grant, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine will convene a multidisciplinary committee of 12-14 experts with experience in both research and practice to examine the evidence related to inequality in STEM education; consider policies and interventions at the state, district, and classroom levels that have been effective at addressing inequality in STEM education; and develop recommendations and a research agenda for the field. The study will focus on children and youth for whom access to and inclusion in high-quality STEM education has been most unequal: Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, as well as English learners and students from low-income families. To complement and deepen the committee’s analysis, the study will include five regional stakeholder engagement events around the country to understand specific community concerns and to reveal the range of opportunities and challenges in different education contexts. The committee’s final report will identify policy and practice levers at all levels of the STEM education system that can help reduce unequal outcomes.