The NRC Report

Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (suggested citation), a report from the National Research Council of the National Academies, responds to a request from Representative Frank Wolf (VA) for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to identify highly successful K-12 schools and programs in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM). The NSF requested and provided support for the National Research Council (NRC) to convene an expert committee to explore this issue.


The Committee on Highly Successful Schools or Programs for K-12 STEM Education was charged with "outlining criteria for identifying effective STEM schools and programs and identifying which of these criteria could be addressed with available data and research, and those where further work is needed to develop appropriate data sources."

Workshop on Successful STEM Education in K-12 Schools

To carry out its charge, the committee reviewed existing research on STEM-focused schools and conducted a public workshop on May 10-11, 2011 in order to identify a range of goals for highly successful education in STEM, explore the criteria for identifying success relative to those goals, and classify strategies and educational practices that K-12 schools and districts use to achieve success in STEM, and identify scalable best practices associated with those strategies and practices. Learn more:

Sample Recommendations from the Report

The report offers two sets of recommendations, geared for schools and districts, and for state and national policy-makers. Districts seeking to improve STEM outcomes should:

  • Consider the adoption of STEM-focused schools. The report identifies three models for such schools: selective STEM Schools for academically talented students, who need to apply for admission; inclusive STEM high schools, often referred to as "magnet schools;" and schools and programs with STEM-focused career and technical education.
  • Devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K-5.
  • Ensure that their STEM curricula are focused on the most important topics in each discipline, are rigorous, and are articulated as a sequence of topics and performances.
  • Enhance the capacity of K-12 teachers.
  • Provide instructional leaders with professional development that helps them create the school conditions that appear to support student achievement.

Educational organizations and policymakers at the state and national levels should:

  • Elevate science to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics.
  • Develop effective systems of assessment that are aligned with the next generation of science standards and that emphasize science practices rather than mere factual recall.
  • Invest in a coherent, focused, and sustained set of support for STEM teachers.
  • Support key areas for future research.

Read the full report

Committee Members

Adam Gamoran (Chair), Department of Sociology and Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Julian Betts, Department of Economics, University of California, San Diego
Jerry P. Gollub, Natural Sciences and Physics Departments, Haverford College
Glenn "Max" McGee, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Milbrey W. McLaughlin, School of Education, Stanford University
Barbara Means, Center for Technology in Learning, SRI International
Steven A. Schneider, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program, WestEd
Jerry D. Valadez, California State University, Fresno

National Academy of Sciences
Martin Storksdieck, Director, Board on Science Education
Stuart Elliott, Director, Board on Testing and Assessment
Natalie Nielsen, Study Director
Thomas E. Keller, Senior Program Officer
Rebecca Krone, Program Associate

*Suggested Citation
National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Committee on Highly Successful Science Programs for K-12 Science Education, Board on Science Education and Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

This study was supported by Grant Nos. DRL-1050545 and DRL-1063495 from the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.