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SXSW EDU: Find Out if Your School Offers a Comprehensive STEM Education

NMSI joined organizations from across the country for an online South by Southwest Education Conference & Festival in lieu of the in-person event hosted annually in Austin, Texas.

Bernard Harris, CEO of NMSI and the first African-American astronaut to complete a spacewalk; and Melissa Moritz, NMSI’s vice president of Strategic Initiatives, co-led the presentation, "An Astronaut's Map to High Quality STEM Education."

After sharing what it’s like to travel in space, Harris asked the question, “Are our youth prepared for the future?” Most companies now and in the coming decades will have a foundation in STEM, such as robotics, blockchain and disruptive technology.

“If we’re going to be innovators … we need to upgrade our educational system, and that’s what NMSI is all about,” Harris says. “We believe that education and particularly STEM education is the way in which to move our country forward … and to stamp out what we call STEM Deserts.”
One way to address STEM Deserts is through the NMSI-led STEM Opportunity Index, an interactive map that allows educators, parents and community leaders to see how well their states, school districts and individual campuses are doing in providing comprehensive, advanced STEM education.

As an evidence-based organization, NMSI started with the research to understand the components of a successful STEM education. Through a partnership with SRI International and 100Kin10, NMSI sought feedback from various perspectives – educators, administrators, education-serving organizations, federal and state leaders.

Along with making the STEM Opportunity Index publicly available, “NMSI utilizes this internally to ensure we’re delivering on our mission and making sure every child that we support has access to a strong STEM education,” Moritz says.

The SOI is informed by NMSI’s STEM Framework for Success, which is a set of conditions, practices and outcomes that education and research experts believe are critical to STEM education. Each of the 114 indicators are tied to publicly available data, including Department of Education, Department of Labor and the National Center for Education Statistics. NMSI’s stakeholders say this is the first time they’ve seen this type of data pulled together in one place.

The contributors to a successful STEM education are “very inclusive to both in school and out of school, recognizing that student learning happens all the time,” Moritz says.

“What we’re hearing from stakeholders is that this helps them map out their STEM plans,” Moritz adds. “It helps them make sure they’re addressing the comprehensive set of needs around STEM education. NMSI would love to be a partner if you’d like help thinking through what STEM education could look like.”

Over time, the SOI will help NMSI and the community see where progress is being made and where improvements are still needed. NMSI plans to look at how to add data that isn’t currently accessible.

“We have a lot of work to do, and we’ve seen incredible bright spots, incredible individual stories, incredible community stories,” Moritz says. “We’re excited as NMSI to make sure they’re not just isolated pockets of success – that truly every child has access to the type of STEM education they’re seeking.”

Check out how your school is doing with the STEM Opportunity Index interactive map. Interested in learning how to advance STEM education for your local students? Contact us

View other on demand SXSW EDU videos