Rice professor serves on National Research Council committee to benefit K-12 STEM Education


Allocating time to teach science in grades K-5 is one of 14 indicators recommended this week in a report by a National Research Council (NRC) committee charged by Congress with developing criteria to gauge the country’s progress on education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among K-12 students.

Rice’s Ruth Lopez Turley, associate professor of sociology and director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), served on that committee.

“Given current education policy efforts, the U.S. has an unprecedented opportunity to improve K-12 STEM education,” Turley said. “As a result, Congress requested the development of methods for tracking the nation’s progress.  The National Research Council responded with this report describing a key set of indicators for national-level monitoring and reporting. This information is significant for school districts, states and federal agencies.”

The committee’s report, “Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education: A Nation Advancing?”, was released Nov. 15 and presented before the House Committee on Science and Technology, the Senate Commerce Committee and National Science Foundation. The report follows a 2011 NRC study that laid out recommendations for reaching nationwide STEM education goals.

The report’s 14 indicators, which include using instructional materials that meet math and science standards and enhancing teachers’ science and mathematics content knowledge for instruction, provide a framework for Congress to create the first national-level monitoring system to track the progress of STEM education.

“This is something that’s never been done before, and it comes from a larger concern about the U.S. keeping up with other countries in these important subjects,” Turley said. “We need to make sure we’re making and monitoring progress.”

For the other indicators and the full report, visit http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13509.

Rice has made educational outreach a priority and has implemented numerous programs geared toward enriching education for Houston’s K-12 students.  Some of Rice’s outreach efforts include STEMscopes, a K-12 comprehensive online science curriculum program that provides hands-on inquiry activities, assessments, problem-based-learning, intervention tools, acceleration materials, and teacher support resources; the Model Science Lab, a project joining university and community scientists with middle school teachers to create a model laboratory classroom; and HERC, a partnership between Rice University and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) which aims to produce rigorous research for the purpose of closing the socioeconomic gaps in educational achievement and attainment in Houston. The university also hosts the annual Sally Ride Festival, a daylong science and engineering fair aimed at interesting middle school girls in science.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.