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icon of glasses and a book Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education


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FY Awards

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Dr. Christina Chhin
(202) 245-7736


REQUEST FOR APPLICATIONS: PDF File FY 2018 RFA (PDF: 1.8 MB) 2018 Competition Closed

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) topic supports research on the improvement of STEM knowledge and skills of students from kindergarten through high school. The long-term outcome of this research will be an array of tools and strategies (e.g., curricula, programs, assessments) that are documented to be effective for improving or assessing students’ STEM learning and achievement.

Between 2003-2016, NCER has invested approximately $174 million in the STEM Education topic to support 87 research projects.

4 Exploration Projects
39 Development and Innovation Projects
23 Efficacy and Replication Projects
5 Effectiveness/Scale-Up Projects
15 Measurement Projects
Plus 1 project funded prior to the IES goal structure

Since 2002, the Institute has made significant progress in helping to support rigorous, scientific research in STEM that is relevant to education practice and policy, particularly within the domains of mathematics and science (see Compendium of Math and Science Research Funded by NCER and NCSER: 2002-2013). However, research on the other two domains of STEM, technology and engineering education, has been minimal. Prior to 2017, the predecessor of the STEM Education topic was the Mathematics and Science Education (Math/Science) topic. By changing the Math/Science Education topic to STEM Education, the Institute seeks to encourage new research focusing on all domains of STEM education.

Close to half (46%) of the grants funded under the STEM topic (previously the Math/Science topic) have been Development and Innovation projects. Taking a closer look at these projects (see Figure), there is a near equal proportion of projects focusing on mathematics versus science. Where we see an unequal distribution in Development projects is by grade level. For projects focusing on mathematics, there is representation across the PK – 12 grade span, with approximately half of the Development projects focusing on the elementary grade span and the other half on the middle and high school grade span. In comparison, for science, the majority of the Development projects have focused on the middle and high school grade span.

For Measurement projects funded under the STEM topic, the pattern is similar to that found for Development and Innovation projects. There is a near equal proportion of mathematics versus science focused Measurements grants, but an unequal distribution by grade span within math and science. A little over half of the Measurement grants focusing on mathematics have been at the elementary grade levels, while the fewest number of grants are focusing on the high school level. For science, the majority of the Measurement projects have focused on the middle and high school grade span, and only a few of the projects have focused on the elementary grade span.

The STEM topic has also funded a large number of rigorous evaluations (e.g., Efficacy and Replication and Effectiveness/Scale-Up grants). A total of 28 evaluation grants have been funded under the STEM topic. In examining the distribution of these evaluation grants, the majority of the grants have focused on evaluating mathematics interventions. In examining the grants by grade span, we see a fair distribution of grants across the PK-8 grade level in mathematics, but there have been fewer evaluations at the high school level. In comparison, for science, there are substantially fewer evaluations being conducted overall, with half of those evaluations focusing on the high school level.

Why is STEM education important?

Improving STEM education is a national priority. Current levels of STEM achievement at the elementary and secondary levels suggest that the United States is neither preparing the general population with levels of mathematics and science knowledge necessary for the 21st century workplace, nor producing an adequate pipeline to meet national needs for domestic scientists and mathematicians. Since 2003, IES has funded numerous grants under the STEM topic to develop, evaluate, and measure instructional strategies and materials for improving students’ STEM learning. Although IES has made great progress, more research is still needed on how to improve STEM teaching and learning for all students.



Number of STEM Education Topic Grants by Grade Span and Focus.

* Grants can be classified in multiple grade spans. Evaluation projects include Goals 3 and 4. Exploration projects not included due to the small number of awards (n = 4).