Bell named to national panel that will examine how to make STEM learning more equitable

By Wisconsin Center for Education Research Communications

UW–Madison’s Courtney Bell is one of 15 experts selected nationwide to serve on a new, ad-hoc committee created by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to provide practical, evidence-based guidance to make STEM learning in the PreK–12 system equitable.

Chosen from more than 350 nominations, committee members are recognized teachers, researchers, and scholars in a range of academic disciplines focused on the science of learning, cultural inclusivity, and improved teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects for historically underserved children.

Courtney Bell

“I am honored to serve on this important committee,” says Bell, who is director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and a professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology. “It is an extremely thoughtful group of scholars who know the field is counting on us to do our best work. I am eager to get started.”

The National Academies’ Committee on Equity in PreK–12 Stem Education will provide “actionable recommendations” for education policy and program stakeholders following a period of rigorous study, according to NASEM, an independent, nonprofit body set up to advise the nation on science and technology. Committee members will determine how best to support educational equity in the teaching of STEM subjects at all levels through high school.

To do that, the committee will examine the existing evidence base for educational equity in STEM education, plan a series of regional field engagement sessions, and develop recommendations and a research agenda for the field. Members will lay out their findings in a consensus report discussing how systemic inequity in STEM education can be addressed at all levels of the PreK–12 system to promote success in STEM for students, regardless of their background, demographic status, and community.

Bell is a professor of learning sciences and a former high school science teacher and teacher educator.  She earned her doctorate at Michigan State University in curriculum, teaching, and educational policy, and recently served as a principal investigator in a global education study, for which she led development of observation systems to measure teaching quality in eight countries.

Bell worked for more than a decade as a research scientist at Educational Testing Service — the world’s largest private, nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization — before becoming the first full-time director of WCER in July 2020. Her interdisciplinary research spans issues of parental choice, teaching quality, teacher learning, teaching measures, and international teaching comparisons.

The NASEM committee will be chaired by Eileen R. Carlton Parsons, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The names and biographies of all the members are available here.

More specifically, according to NASEM, the committee will:

  • identify and describe inequity in the state of PreK–12 STEM education in the United States and examine the evidence on explanations of and interventions to address those inequities;
  • consider how ongoing implementation of state-level science and mathematics standards can address existing inequities in such areas as resource and human capital distribution, course offerings, instructional approaches, family and community engagement, enrichment programs, access to technology and other concerns relevant to persistent inequalities reflected in the literature;
  • review evidence on policy and program interventions at the federal, state, district and classroom levels that address equity concerns and might be considered promising practices;
  • develop recommendations for policy, practice and research to promote success for all students in PreK–12 STEM learning.

All National Academies committee appointments are considered provisional pending the finalization of membership following a standard 20-day public comment period.

Established in 1863 by Congress, the National Academy of Sciences is a private, nongovernmental institution formed to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Joined under the same charter by the Academy of Engineering in 1964 and the Academy of Medicine in 1970, the three bodies provide objective analysis to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

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