On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education issued an updated Dear Colleague Letter to states, school districts, schools, and education partners on how to maximize federal funds to support and enhance innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for all students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The letter serves as a resource for decreasing the equity and opportunity gaps for historically underserved students in STEM and gives examples of how federal funds—through formula grant programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—can support efforts to improve instruction and student outcomes in the STEM fields. This letter is an update to a Dear Colleague Letter, issued last April, which identified similar opportunities under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Outlined in the letter are examples of allowable uses of federal funds that can support the development, implementation, and expansion of STEM experiences to help improve student achievement under ESSA. The examples include recommendations for both improving access for students and supporting educators in STEM disciplines. Specifically, the letter addresses ways to use federal funds to:

  • Increase students’ equitable access to STEM courses and experiences, including out-of-school programs, STEM-themed schools, and career pathways.
  • Support educators’ knowledge and expertise in STEM disciplines through recruitment, preparation, support, and retention strategies.
  • Increase student access to materials and equipment needed to support inquiry-based pedagogy and active learning.

Ensuring that all students have equitable access to STEM education is important to our nation’s future. Accordingly, STEM is a funding priority in numerous Department grant competitions—including the Arts—to enhance awareness of, interest in, and capacity in the STEM fields through high quality educational programs, both in and out of school. To help advance these goals, the STEM team at the Department helps to promote STEM priorities and coordinate throughout the Department and across other federal agencies. For more information about STEM at the U.S. Department of Education, please visit the STEM office web site or email us at STEM@ED.gov.

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