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Shaping a more inclusive and responsive STEM education system

by Carmen V. Gauthier, chair, ACS Society Committee on Education
September 26, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 35

 

A photo of Carmen Gauthier.
Credit: Thomas Gauthier
Carmen Gauthier

As students and educators in the US continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and call for investment in infrastructure for teaching and learning, American Chemical Society members have an opportunity to help shape the future of the science education ecosystem. The society’s advocacy around federal policy making related to education is guided by the ACS Science Education Policy position statement. Your input will help ensure that the statement and ACS’s actions are responsive to the needs of the chemistry enterprise.

Within ACS, those needs are championed by the Society Committee on Education (SOCED). Over the past year, SOCED has worked to implement a new structure that better aligns with the committee’s roles and responsibilities. To more comprehensively guide the collection of ACS policies and programs across educational levels, SOCED formed three new subcommittees: Science Education Policy, Supporting Excellence in Education, and Student Communities.

The work of the new SOCED Science Education Policy subcommittee is timely, given the strain on education systems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the greater commitment to addressing longstanding and entrenched inequities in both access and quality of science education. The Science Education Policy statement is due for revision in 2022, giving the subcommittee the opportunity to create a more responsive and inclusive statement to empower ACS and its members to drive policy changes within the US government.

Members have an opportunity to help shape the future of the science education ecosystem.

ACS Public Policy Statements are designed to cover areas of importance to the chemical and scientific enterprise, drawing on the expertise of members to shape ACS messages to policy makers. Governance committees with expertise on the issues recommend the statements to the Board Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations (PAPR). The statements are then vetted by PAPR on behalf of the ACS Board of Directors. Once PAPR approves a statement, the ACS government affairs team creates advocacy strategies and member engagement campaigns around the society’s policy priorities.

SOCED has primary jurisdiction over three statements: Science Education Policy, Teaching of Evolution, and Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Science. SOCED also lends support to other committee writing teams that manage additional statements, including Science and Technology in the Budget, Workforce-Related Immigration, and Visas for Scientific Collaboration and Academic Study.

The SOCED Science Education Policy subcommittee has been tasked with revising the current Science Education Policy statement in the following ways:

amplifying the focus on underserved and underrepresented communities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education system

allowing for flexibility around emerging trends and methods of teaching and learning in response to virtual learning, calls for broadband access, and other areas

incorporating the Teaching of Evolution and Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Science ACS position statements into the larger statement

The subcommittee has begun meeting, sharing edits, and pulling together expertise from across SOCED to consider the key points for federal policy makers. How can policy makers promote lifelong, rigorous education of science concepts and practices? How can they provide adequate state and federal support for science education? How can they encourage students of all backgrounds in the pursuit of education and careers in STEM fields? What investments need to be made in the science education system, from K–12 to higher education? As the draft comes together, we will ask for feedback from ACS members, committees, advisory boards, and other networks within the society.

We also invite you to engage with the policy process through the following opportunities:

Review the Science Education Policy statement and submit comments and suggestions to the SOCED Science Education Policy subcommittee at education@acs.org. To view the entirety of ACS Public Policy Statements, visit www.acs.org/policy.

Join ACS Act4Chemistry, the legislative action network designed to inform members on issues of importance to the chemistry enterprise and to provide opportunities for easy engagement with federal legislators. For more information, visit www.acs.org/act4chemistry.

Enroll in the Chemistry Advocacy Workshop, which takes roughly 2 h for participants to complete. It can be split into small sections and includes four modules—an introduction to chemistry advocacy, fundamentals of the US government structure, congressional advocacy, and effective communications. You can enroll in the advocacy workshop by visiting www.acs.org/chemistryadvocacy.

As Jennifer Nielson, 2020 chair of SOCED, wrote in her Nov. 15, 2020, Comment, “The chemistry community has a unique opportunity to not just survive but thrive by becoming aware of the challenges of creating inclusive education and using new understanding and technologies to solve those challenges.” She also noted, “Developing skills and science understanding and preparing students at all levels . . . require that each of us plays a part.” Everyone can support the process of developing ACS public policy statements and their role in the society’s advocacy. Send your insights and questions to education@acs.org.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.

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