Experts in many fields have studied the U.S. educational system in an effort to understand the decline in qualified STEM graduates. Economists have investigated the role of incentives such as teacher pay, educational theorists have debated how to assess teaching quality, and many pragmatic initiatives, such as reducing class size, have been proposed and implemented with little supporting research. Most historical studies have examined just one part of the over-arching problem, and have often produced contradictory results due to scope limitations. Consequently, we have been unable to describe how effects, impacts, and changes in one part of the U.S. educational system flow through and impact the other parts of the system, or how changes might propagate through time. Until now.
In 2006, the co-chair of BHEF’s STEM Initiative, Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson, in order to better understand what it would take to achieve the initiative’s goal of doubling the number of U.S. students earning STEM degrees by 2015, commissioned a team of Raytheon engineers to create a system dynamics model to help policymakers, educators, and researchers better understand the complex nature of the U.S. education system and identify potential solutions that could help the nation strengthen student outcomes in STEM.
The model tracks students with ability in STEM as they flow though the system, starting in elementary school, moving through secondary school, transitioning into college, and entering into either a STEM-related career in teaching or industry or a non-STEM career. Demographics and workforce data underlying the model are from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using modeling techniques, a number of proposed policy interventions and strategies were overlaid on the baseline model to simulate the impact—both intentional and unintentional—on the number of STEM-capable students.
To fully realize the potential benefits of this tool, Raytheon and BHEF recognized the need for additional model enhancement, testing, validation, and analysis before the model transitions to open source use by the public. To accomplish these refinements, the STEM Research and Modeling Network (SRMN) was officially formed in June, 2008.
The first convening of the network took place in November, 2008 at the Kauffman Foundation. Since then, beta versions of the model have been presented and demonstrated to individuals at the Department of Homeland Security, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Congress' Science and Technology Committee, and the New York City Public School System.
A number of historical documents provide additional information on the development of the SRMN: