National Science Board Issues Report on “Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators”

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Publication date: 
20 October 2010
Number: 
106

Developing  effective strategies to support America’s most talented students is a topic  that is often overlooked in the ongoing national dialogue about improving our  nation’s schools.  The National Science  Board has released an important report focusing on the identification and  nurturing of these students who could be America’s “next generation of  innovators.”

“Preparing  the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation’s  Human Capital” was produced by an ad hoc Task Group of the Board’s Committee on  Education and Human Resources.  Camilla  Benbow of Vanderbilt University was the Lead of the Task Group on STEM  Innovators.  Drawing on the findings and  recommendations of a panel of experts, and with assistance from the National  Science Foundation and the Department of Education, the Task Group’s 62-page  report offers a compelling rationale and strategy to the President, Congress, NSF  and other agencies and organizations. 

“The  Board’s 2-year examination of this issue made clear one fundamental reality:  the U.S. education system too frequently fails to identify and develop our most  talented and motivated students who will become the next generation of  innovators,” states the report.  The  underlying rationale for making the changes recommended by the Task Force is  two-fold.  From a national perspective,  innovations that could be developed by these students after they enter the  workforce could be the foundation of new jobs and improvements in the overall quality  of life.

In  addition,  as what the Task Force  characterizes as an “opportunity for excellence,” it contends that as broadly-based  improvements are made in the nation’s educational system, “to reach true  equality of opportunity, and to ensure that potential does not go unrealized,  we must not overlook the educational needs of our Nation’s most talented and  motivated students.  Too often, U.S.  students with tremendous potential to become our future innovators go  unrecognized and undeveloped.”  The  report explains that these students, with different types of STEM abilities, are  found in all demographics.  There are few  Department of Education and National Science Foundation programs that provide “minimal”  direct or indirect support for K-12 high-ability students.

The  Task Group offered three major recommendations that are accompanied by eighteen  policy actions.  It also suggested a  research agenda for the National Science Foundation to “ensure the policy  actions are supported by the best available research.”  The recommendations are as follows:

“Provide  opportunities for excellence. We cannot assume that our Nation’s most talented students  will succeed on their own. Instead, we must offer coordinated, proactive,  sustained formal and informal interventions to develop their abilities.  Students should learn at a pace, depth, and breadth commensurate with their  talents and interests and in a fashion that elicits engagement, intellectual  curiosity, and creative problem solving -- essential skills for future  innovation.”

“Cast  a wide net to identify all types of talents and to nurture potential in all  demographics of     students.  To this end, we must develop and implement appropriate talent assessments at  multiple grade  levels and prepare educators to recognize potential, particularly among those  individuals who have not been given adequate opportunities to transform their  potential into academic achievement.”

“Foster  a supportive ecosystem that nurtures and celebrates excellence and innovative  thinking.     Parents/guardians,  education professionals, peers, and students themselves must work together to create  a culture that expects excellence, encourages creativity, and rewards the  successes of all students regardless of their race/ethnicity, gender,  socioeconomic status, or geographical locale.”

The  Task Force concluded:

“The  United States is faced with a clear and profound choice between action and  complacency. The Board firmly believes that a coherent, proactive, and  sustained effort to identify and develop our Nation’s STEM innovators will help  drive future economic prosperity and improve the quality of life for all.  Likewise, providing opportunities for all young men and women to reach their  potential will serve the dual American ideals of equity and excellence in  education.”

The  full report may be read here.

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