“We need to ensure that our nation’s youth have the scientific and mathematical skills to strive and thrive in a technology-based economy. But we have to capture and hold the desire of young adults to study STEM subjects so they will want to pursue these careers,” said Chairman Smith. “A healthy and viable STEM workforce, literate in all STEM subjects, including computer science, is critical to American industries. A well-educated and trained STEM workforce ensures our future economic prosperity.”
“We are pleased to see that members of the House like Rep. Esty and Rep. Smith can come together in a bipartisan way to craft policies that will advance and improve STEM education,” said James Brown, Executive Director, STEM Education Coalition. “Today, most of the best jobs are STEM jobs and our future depends on empowering teachers and schools in every learning environment to adapt to a rapidly changing global economy where STEM skills are essential. The STEM Education Act is a step down that path.”
“Thank you for your efforts to support expanded access to K-12 computer science education, as exemplified by the introduction of the STEM Education Act of 2015, H.R. 1020,” said Cameron Wilson, COO of Code.org. “Almost every job—medicine, law, business, banking and local, state and federal government— increasingly requires familiarity with computer science. Code.org believes this bill will strengthen K-12 computer science education and better serve the needs of industry and the research enterprise, while giving young people the boundless opportunities computer science knowledge and skills offer.”
Summary of Major Provisions in the STEM Education Act of 2015:
- Expands existing federal grants and programs related to STEM education to include computer science education.
- Supports competitive merit-reviewed grants for informal STEM education, which is learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers, and afterschool programs.
- Amends the National Science Foundation Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to allow teachers in pursuit of a master’s degree to apply for the grant and explicitly include computer science teachers. These provisions are based on Esty’s STEM Jobs Act, H.R. 3243, which she introduced in the 113th Congress. Currently, only teachers already holding a master’s degree in a STEM field are eligible to apply. The STEM Education Act would allow more teachers the opportunity to compete for the grant, better reflecting the current reality facing our schools, especially in high-need areas.
Video of Esty’s speech on the House floor can be viewed here. A full transcript of her remarks follows:
I want to begin by thanking my friend, Chairman Smith, for his leadership on the Science Committee, particularly on STEM education. For the second Congress in a row, we are considering the STEM Education Act on the House floor. I am grateful we are advancing these important efforts in a bipartisan fashion—thanks in large part to the Chairman’s willingness to work across the aisle. I would also like to thank and recognize the work of Representative Lipinski for his diligent work on this bill and many other bills, and my good friend Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson for her thoughtful leadership on STEM education and all issues facing the Science Committee.
The STEM Education Act of 2015 supports teachers who are preparing students to be the engineers, manufacturers, and scientists of tomorrow. We all know that students—particularly elementary-school students—learn best when they are engaged and interested. However, any parent knows that it can be difficult to spark a child’s passion for STEM subjects without innovative and creative learning environments. And with more and more jobs of the 21st century requiring STEM skills, we need to better prepare our children for these good-paying jobs.
As a mother of three, I remember when my children had incredible teachers who made science and math accessible and fun. We should do all we can to support innovative, passionate teachers for every child in every school.
This bill today includes sections of my STEM Jobs Act, a bill expanding the Robert Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship at the National Science Foundation. Currently, Master Teaching Fellowships provide mentoring, training, and financial support to STEM professionals who want to enter the teaching profession. In Connecticut, we have two Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship programs. UConn’s “Teachers for Tomorrow” program prepares teachers throughout the state to teach math, biology, physics, and chemistry to students of all ages. And at the University of Bridgeport, the Master Teaching Fellowship Program places master physics teachers in high-need high schools in southwestern Connecticut.
Our bill today expands the Master Teaching Fellowship so that those who are working towards a master’s degree— not just those who already have a master’s degree—are also eligible to apply—supporting more passionate teachers, and in doing so, allowing more students to benefit from excellent STEM instructors.
Our bill also promotes learning outside of the classroom. In Connecticut, we have the wonderful Connecticut Science Center, with incredibly creative exhibits, like one called “Grossology” where kids can explore how to keep their bodies healthy by crawling through an enormous digestive system and experiencing a “larger than life” sneeze—perfect for inspiring our nation’s future doctors and biomedical researchers!
In addition to educating and inspiring our children, science centers, planetariums, and aquariums across the country also provide invaluable teacher training. Last year alone, the Connecticut Science Center trained nearly 1,200 teachers who then went on to teach and inspire tens of thousands of students. This bill directs the National Science Foundation to continue to award competitive grants for out-of-school STEM learning opportunities—for both students and teachers.
Finally, our bill takes the important step of expanding the definition of STEM for federal programs and grants to include computer science. As a member of the Science Committee and Rep. Lipinski’s STEM Caucus, I have been a strong advocate for increasing literacy in computer science.
This winter, I joined students from across the state—and more than 100 million nationwide—to participate in an “Hour of Code.” We learned basic computer programming skills—and discovered that it’s a lot of fun!
I also helped create the Congressional STEM App Competition and hosted this competition in my district, where students created and built apps for their smartphones. The entries submitted by these high school students were incredibly innovative and useful, technically advanced, as well as terrific examples of the problem solving we need all of our students to learn.
The winning apps included an app to keep teachers informed during a school emergency, a program to help students know if they are going to be able to catch their bus on time—an app I know my children would have used on those cold Connecticut winter mornings like this one—and an app to help high school freshman learn their way around their new school.
The STEM App Competition helps students experience for themselves how important—and fun—computer science can be. But for example, in Connecticut, where only 65 schools across the state have dedicated computer science programs, it is critical that we continue to expand access to computer science education for all students.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud that we are rising above partisan politics to advance the bipartisan STEM Education Act of 2015. This bill demonstrates that we can come together to help our children—to help them thrive and to help ensure that they can be competitive in the 21st century global economy.
I want to again thank Chairman Smith and Representative Lipinski for their leadership, and the committee staffs for their work on the STEM Education Act. I would also like to thank my friend, Ranking Member Johnson, a dedicated STEM champion who is leading all of us on the Science Committee to truly recognize the importance of a robust and multidisciplinary STEM education and inspire us to do more across the board to support STEM. I look forward to working with Ranking Member Johnson and the rest of the Committee to further advance our priorities this Congress.