STEM Education B.S.

I’m not really swearing in the title of this post because I am not so much angry as sad. I have been reviewing grant proposals recently. Generally, I hate reviewing proposals because the pay is minimal relative to the time you put in, there are usually a lot to be read in a short time, and it adds up to a couple thousand pages. I do it anyway, kind of like having to be the Brownie Troop Leader at least once if you have four daughters. If you write a lot of grants, it’s kind of obligatory to review them.

So … I am reading this grant and it is all about a wonderful program to teach students science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There are going to be all sorts of resources, they are going to offer these amazing courses, it is based on the latest educational research, students will be doing cutting edge science. I am getting all excited and proud of my country just reading it. What a great program! What terrific curriculum! What fabulous technology.

some weird bunch of parts stuck together

and then, I realize ….

This isn’t a new program.

This is a renewal application.

I have BEEN to this program.

And it is nothing like that.

The sites each have maybe one relatively new computer that works. If they have any other computers at all, they are ancient. The staff turns over every six months or so. Every time I go there it is new people. Very little of the training stated in the proposal occurs.

I was a speaker at one of the training sessions they did have,  many years ago. One of the staff members fell asleep. Afterwards, one of the other employees said to me,

“Your training was interesting. It’s not you. She’s just on drugs. She falls asleep at work all of the time.”

The students who are supposedly learning programming and taking courses in advanced science and mathematics are, on the average, reading and doing mathematics two to four years below their grade level.  Not only are they not taking the courses described in the proposal, I didn’t even know they were supposed to be learning anything like that until I read the proposal.

Basically, the students get help with their homework sometimes and do some social activities. That is not terrible, but it is NOTHING like what was described. So much so that I did not even realize it was the same program at first. I thought it was just another program with the same name.

So …. did I say something in the review panel? No, because the proposal was pulled from our panel due to a conflict of interest – one of the other reviewers had been an employee or consultant of theirs – so it went to some other group who will review this fictitious program and probably give it funding. I would have – if it really existed.

As I said, I’m not angry so much as disappointed.

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