The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently announced an initiative called Raise the Bar: STEM Excellence for All Students, designed to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education nationwide. In conjunction with the introduction of the initiative, ED published a Dear Colleague Letter to state and local school leaders outlining how federal education funds can be used to enhance STEM teaching and learning. The letter, and an accompanying enclosure with examples, explains that a state department of education or local school may consider using funds under ESEA to:
- Purchase or reconfigure STEM materials, devices or STEM-focused digital learning resources or spaces.
- Provide professional development to educators on how to teach STEM concepts, including those in computer science, data science, AI or other emerging STEM disciplines.
- Provide access to supplemental STEM resources and teacher professional development specifically designed or adapted for English learners.
- Increase student access to, and improve student engagement and achievement in, high-quality STEM courses.
- Provide students at 21st Century Community Learning Centers with the opportunity to engage in STEM content that aligns to their school day and focuses on hands-on, STEM-rich experiences.
The letter also explains how Perkins V funds for career and technical education may be used to develop STEM career pathways and programs of study. Additionally, funds under IDEA can be used to provide professional development for STEM educators to support the needs of children with disabilities, to improve the use of technology in the classroom by children with disabilities to enhance their STEM learning, or to support the use of technology in STEM programs to maximize accessibility to the general education curriculum for children with disabilities. ARP ESSER funds include specific set-asides for evidence-based summer, comprehensive afterschool and other programs that address the academic impact of lost instructional time; each of these can include a focus on STEM programming.