The America COMPETES Act called for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a 20-year science education plan to be reevaluated and updated every 5 years. The National Research Council’s review of NOAA’s education programs was completed at this critical juncture to provide guidance to the agency as it developed its long-term plan for education.
At the request of the NOAA Office of Education, the NRC committee reviewed and assessed the agency’s 20 year plan for K-12, post-secondary, graduate, and informal education, addressing the role of NOAA in education, as well as its program goals and objectives, program impact, portfolio balance and priorities, and evaluation strategy. The committee did not comprehensively review the agency’s extension programs. The following questions guided the committee’s work:
- Role of NOAA: What are the unique assets that NOAA can bring to STEM education? Given these unique assets, and in light of the recently passed America COMPETES Act, what role should NOAA play in STEM education within the context of other federal agencies, existing interagency initiatives, and pressing societal concerns about the Earth’s environment and marine resources?
- Goals and Objectives: Are the goals and objectives in the 20 year education plan appropriate given NOAA’s role in education, and in the context of pressing national concerns? How well are the agency’s current goals and objectives for its education program reflected in the overall portfolio of activities?
- Effectiveness: What is currently known about the effectiveness of the overall education portfolio and the individual programs? What type of data are collected to assess the effectiveness of the individual programs? What additional data are needed to determine the impact of the education portfolio and individual programs?
- Portfolio Composition: What kind of balance should NOAA strive to achieve in their overall education portfolio, including attention to the type of program (i.e. K-12, post-secondary, graduate, and informal), reach (e.g. local, regional, national), intended audience (e.g. teachers, students, public), substantive focus (e.g. oceans, climate, coasts, Great Lakes), strategies (e.g., professional development, curriculum development and informal education), and capabilities being used (e.g., internal versus external)? What should be the agency’s short and long-term priorities in education in order to maximize its investment, and meet the pressing needs of the nation?
- Evaluation: How should NOAA conduct evaluations at the program level? What recommendations can the committee offer about an effective and scalable evaluation strategy?
*This worked was sponsored by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA’s definition of STEM education includes both earth system science and environmental education