The Biden Administration’s New STEM Initiative: What Will It Mean for K-12 Schools?

By Libby Stanford — December 12, 2022 5 min read
Angel Pina, 10, of Wallingford, and Lauren DiGangi, director of commercial excellence for Marlborough Mass. based Hologic, maneuver robots as Justine Tynan, lead teacher at CT STEM Academy, left, and Carlos Pina, of Wallingford, right, observe during the CT STEM Academy Open House and Discovery Lab Grand Opening at Spanish Community of Wallingford, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. The CT STEM Academy received a $75,000 grant from Hologic, a global leader in medical technology and women's health that provides philanthropic support to standout STEM initiatives from elementary-school through college years.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new Biden administration initiative aims to expand access to science, technology, engineering, math, and medical career fields through partnerships with universities, STEM companies, and nonprofit organizations.

The White House announced a new “STEMM” (adding an extra M to the well-known acronym to include medical fields) national vision and strategy during the Dec. 12 Summit on STEMM Equity and Excellence. The initiative outlines five action items that the government and its industry and education partners will take to improve STEMM equity and access across the country and involves over $1.2 billion in work and investments from the federal government, industry leaders, and nonprofit organizations, according to a fact sheet.

“The time has come to work boldly, with urgency, together to open the doors of opportunity across these five action areas,” Alondra Nelson, the principal deputy director for science and society at the White House’s office of science and technology policy, said during the summit.

See Also

Sophomore Byron Barksdale, part of the aviation program at Magruder High School, takes a look at the exposed engine of a plane during a visit to the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md., on April 6, 2022.
Sophomore Byron Barksdale, part of the aviation program at Magruder High School, takes a look at the exposed engine of a plane during a visit to the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md., on April 6, 2022.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week

The five action items the federal government plans to put in place include:

  • Provide holistic and lifelong support for students, teachers, workers, and communities to participate in, and contribute to, science and technology;
  • Address STEMM teacher shortages by recruiting and retaining teachers and improving teacher respect;
  • Close STEMM funding gaps and support students, researchers, and communities that have historically been excluded from access to STEMM resources;
  • Root out systemic bias, inaccessibility, discrimination, and harassment in classrooms, laboratories, and workplaces;
  • And promote culture and systems of accountability across science and technology communities, workplaces, and education fields.

The idea is that the action items will provide students from all backgrounds with the opportunities they need to access and excel in STEMM fields. For the STEMM workforce to reflect societal demographics by 2030, the number of women in those jobs would need to double, the number of Black people would need to more than double, and the number of Hispanic people would need to triple, according to a report from the National Science Foundation.

“People talk about those [people] as the missing millions, the people who have these enormous contributions to make but who can’t yet find pathways into STEMM jobs,” said Arati Prabhakar, the chief adviser to the president for science and technology and the director of the office of science and technology policy.

Federal and private partnerships to expand opportunities in high-needs communities

Within each of the five action areas identified through the initiative are specific programs and steps the federal government and industry leaders are taking to improve STEMM opportunities.

The White House highlighted federal programs with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, NASA, and the National Science Foundation to fund and provide work-based and hands-on learning opportunities for students from high-needs areas and varying backgrounds.

The U.S. Department of Education also plans to focus on recruiting teachers and training teachers in STEMM, while also developing equitable pathways for careers for students, said Joaquin Tamayo, the chief of staff for the department’s deputy secretary, Cindy Marten. The department wants all students to feel that they belong in STEMM classrooms and careers, he said.

“We’re experiencing right now, particularly as we come out of the pandemic, a crisis of belonging in this country, a crisis of belonging in our classrooms, a crisis of belonging among our educators, and it’s having a serious impact,” Tamayo said.

As for private-sector work, the American Association for the Advancement of Science is partnering with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to bring together more than 90 companies and organizations involved in the STEMM field to be a part of the STEMM Opportunity Alliance.

The alliance will work to achieve STEMM equity and excellence across the White House’s five identified action areas by 2050. So far, the philanthropic organizations involved in the alliance have donated $4 million to its work.

Each of the 90 companies and organizations has committed to specific actions to improve STEMM equity. For example, Micron, a semiconductor, memory, and storage manufacturer, and the National Science Foundation plan to invest $10 million to accelerate training of new STEMM teachers, support the retention of existing STEMM educators, and advance diversity and equity in the STEMM teacher workforce.

“We’ve got to make sure that our educator pipeline looks like the STEMM pipeline that we’re trying to create,” said April Arnzen, Micron’s senior vice president and chief people officer.

Removing systemic barriers to participation is critical

During the summit, Zach Oxendine, an engineer at Microsoft, shared how his experience navigating the school system and pursuing a career in the technology field was anything but simple.

Oxendine, originally from Rock Hill, S.C., is a member of the Lumbee Native American tribe and the son of deaf parents, who divorced when he was in elementary school. Though he always showed talent in school, he struggled to find people who believed in him.

“I often found myself in trouble at school,” Oxendine said. “And although I was deemed a bright kid by test scores and honors classes, my grades did not reflect that potential. For me, school was not a place where I always felt like I could be empowered to be my authentic self.”

Oxendine described how he faced setbacks when his family couldn’t afford the cost for him to participate in his school’s talent-identification program for students with high standardized-test scores, and he struggled to figure out how to pay for college or even envision himself in a college setting. So Oxendine joined the U.S. Air Force, where he discovered the field of technology and pursued a college degree and, later, his career in IT and engineering, eventually landing at Microsoft.

Oxendine created his own STEM youth camp for Native American students in the Southeast, specifically students who are members of the Lumbee and Catawba tribes. In his speech at the summit, Oxendine said the White House’s initiative is an important step forward for equity in STEMM and urged national and industry leaders to take the same initiative to remove barriers to STEMM fields and education.

“You see too many kids like me,” he said. “They don’t have the opportunity or the supports to access or thrive in STEMM, and STEMM pathways are far too often blocked for too many of America’s youth.”

Related Tags:


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Science Opinion Let’s Mobilize Our Youth to Address the STEM Achievement Gap
Youth can play a role in addressing the STEM achievement gap, too, writes a high school student in this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Science Racial Disparities in STEM Start as Early as Kindergarten, New Study Finds
Socioeconomic factors and school environment explain some of the disparities, but not all of them.
3 min read
Photo of two boys handling model of atom.
E+ / Getty
Science How These Teachers Center Student Voice in Science Class
Three award-winning teachers discuss connecting curricula to students’ lives and helping kids see themselves as scientists.
6 min read
New Mexico educator Christopher Nunez receives a Milken Educator Award on Oct. 21, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
New Mexico educator Christopher Nunez receives a Milken Educator Award on Oct. 21in Las Cruces.
Milken Family Foundation
Science Student Scientists Are Publishing Their Research In This Peer-Reviewed Journal
Middle and high schools students conduct scientific experiments—and present the findings in a scholarly publication.
3 min read
Middle or high school girl performs chemistry experiment with a Black male middle or high school lab partner
SDI Productions/E+/Getty