GAO Finds STEM Program Analysis Falls Short

Apr 6, 2018

Following the White House’s announcement to prioritize Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) last September, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undertook an audit to analyze the evolving federal investment in STEM education, and how much STEM programs have been assessed. The results of this audit were recently published in the GAO’s report STEM Education: Actions Needed to Better Assess the Federal Investment.

GAO’s report found that the Committee on STEM Education has not fully met its responsibilities to assess the federal STEM education portfolio. Specifically, it found that the Committee has not reviewed programs' performance assessments nor has it documented those assessments in its inventory, as required by law. The report recommends several actions that the Committee on STEM Education can take to improve program assessments, including improving public awareness of existing assessments, sharing best practices among programs, collecting additional information on participants, and having the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) include an analysis of performance outcomes in its annual report.

Between 2010 and 2016, the government spent approximately $3 billion on STEM education, but the number of STEM programs decreased by 22 percent. The White House Committee on STEM Education linked this decrease to agencies commencing, terminating and combining programs. However, the GAO report notes that of the 109 programs that operated the full period between 2011 and 2016, the committee only evaluated 49.

The report also contends that the committee failed to monitor and report on participation of underrepresented communities in many of these programs, with only 61 percent of programs tracking the participation of women and 54 percent tracking African American participation. Being more inclusive of these traditionally underrepresented communities will expand workforce skill sets, as well as provide new employment opportunities to these underserved populations.

To view the full GAO report, click here: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-290