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                                                     Calendar No. 180
                                                     
116th Congress   }                                           {   Report
                                 SENATE                          
1st Session      }                                           {   116-78
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     

                                                       

                      BUILDING BLOCKS OF STEM ACT

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                                 of the

           COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION

                                   on

                                 S. 737

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


                August 16, 2019.--Ordered to be printed
  Filed, under authority of the order of the Senate of August 1, 2019
  
  
  
                U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE
                   
89-010                  WASHINGTON : 2019       
 
  
  
  
  
  
       SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
                     one hundred sixteenth congress
                             first session

                 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi, Chairman
JOHN THUNE, South Dakota             MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
ROY BLUNT, Missouri                  AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
TED CRUZ, Texas                      RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut
DEB FISCHER, Nebraska                BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii
JERRY MORAN, Kansas                  EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska                 TOM UDALL, New Mexico
CORY GARDNER, Colorado               GARY C. PETERS, Michigan
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee          TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia  TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Illinois
MIKE LEE, Utah                       JON TESTER, Montana
RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               KYRSTEN SINEMA, Arizona
TODD C. YOUNG, Indiana               JACKY ROSEN, Nevada
RICK SCOTT, Florida
                       John Keast, Staff Director
               David Strickland, Minority Staff Director
               
               
               

                                                       Calendar No. 180
                                                       
                                                       
116th Congress   }                                            {    Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session     }                                            {    116-78

======================================================================



 
                      BUILDING BLOCKS OF STEM ACT

                                _______
                                

                August 16, 2019.--Ordered to be printed

  Filed, under authority of the order of the Senate of August 1, 2019

                                _______
                                

       Mr. Wicker, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
                Transportation, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 737]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 737) to direct the National 
Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused 
on early childhood, having considered the same, reports 
favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that the 
bill do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The purpose of S. 737, the Building Blocks of STEM Act, is 
to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to more 
equitably allocate funding for research in the Discovery 
Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program to studies that include a 
focus on early childhood (birth through age 10)--with the goal 
of improving research on early childhood development in 
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) 
programs. The legislation also would expand two existing NSF 
grant programs; the first to fund research in identifying and 
understanding what factors contribute to the willingness or 
unwillingness of young girls to participate in STEM activities, 
and the second to encourage participation of young girls in 
computer science activities in pre-K and elementary classrooms.

                          Background and Needs

    America's STEM workforce is central to our innovative 
capacity and global competitiveness. Despite making up half of 
the total workforce, women are underrepresented in STEM 
careers, making up less than 25 percent of STEM jobs in 
2009.\1\ Additionally, studies have shown that girls appear to 
lose interest in STEM rapidly between early and late 
adolescence, and there is limited research on the effect of 
interventions during early childhood.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics 
Administration. ``Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation'' (https://
files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED523766.pdf).
    \2\United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural 
Organization. ``Cracking the Code: Girls' and Women's Education in 
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)'' (https://
unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000253479).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                     NSF SUPPORT FOR STEM EDUCATION

    NSF continues to make the largest financial investment in 
STEM education of all Federal science agencies and leads 
Federal research in this area. NSF's DRK-12 program seeks to 
better understand and improve instruction of STEM education in 
preK-12 classrooms by enhancing understanding and use of STEM 
content by both students and teachers, through research and 
development of innovative STEM education approaches.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\National Science Foundation, News Release. ``NSF awards $50M in 
grants to improve STEM education'' (https://www.nsf.gov/news/
news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=297236&org=NSF&from=news) (accessed May 8, 2019).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

              ADDRESSING GENDER GAPS IN THE STEM WORKFORCE

    Over the past decade, employment in STEM occupations has 
increased by over 10 percent, compared with 5.2 percent net 
growth in non-STEM occupations, with computer occupations and 
engineers among the types of STEM occupations with the highest 
job gains.\4\ The number of women entering the workforce to 
STEM careers has risen significantly over the past 2 decades, 
and significant strides have been made toward closing the 
gender gap in several STEM fields.\5\ However, significant 
gender disparities continue to exist in computer and 
mathematical sciences (25 percent) and engineering (15 
percent), and through all levels of education.\6\ Given that 
computer science and engineering careers are among the most 
rapidly increasing in the workforce, strategic funding by 
existing NSF STEM programs is needed in order to understand and 
address the root cause of this gap.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM Occupations: Past, 
Present, and Future (https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2017/science-
technology-engineering-and-mathematics-stem-occupations-past-present-
and-future/pdf) (accessed May 8, 2019).
    \5\National Science Foundation, ``Has employment of women and 
minorities in S&E jobs increased?'' (https://nsf.gov/nsb/sei/edTool/
data/workforce-07.html).
    \6\National Science Foundation, ``Has employment of women and 
minorities in S&E jobs increased?'' (https://nsf.gov/nsb/sei/edTool/
data/workforce-07.html).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         Summary of Provisions

    S. 737 would direct NSF to consider age distribution when 
awarding grants under the DRK-12 program. This bill also would 
fund research and interventions that support girls in STEM 
education and computer science activities.

                          Legislative History

    S. 737, the Building Blocks of STEM Act, was introduced on 
March 11, 2019, by Senator Rosen (for herself and Senators 
Capito, Schatz, Blackburn, Cortez Masto, and Fischer), and was 
referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation of the Senate. Senator Blumenthal is an 
additional cosponsor. On May 15, 2019, the Committee met in 
open Executive Session and, by voice vote, ordered S. 737 
reported favorably without amendment.
    Similar legislation, H.R. 1665, the Building Blocks of STEM 
Act, was introduced on March 11, 2019, by Representative Haley 
Stevens (for herself and Representative Baird), and was 
referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of 
the House of Representatives. There are seven additional 
cosponsors.

                            Estimated Costs

    In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 
Office:




    S. 737 would modify several National Science Foundation 
(NSF) programs that provide grants to institutions of higher 
education and nonprofit organizations. Specifically, the bill 
would authorize the use of grants to study factors that 
contribute to female students' participation in science, 
technology, engineering, and math education, and to develop and 
evaluate methods to increase female students' participation in 
computer science. The bill also would direct the NSF to focus 
on early childhood education within the Discovery Research 
PreK-12 grant program.
    In recent years, the NSF has spent about $160 million 
annually on those programs. CBO expects that implementing the 
bill would not change the total amount of grants awarded. Using 
information from the NSF, and based on the costs of similar 
tasks, CBO estimates that any administrative costs incurred 
under S. 737 would be insignificant; such spending would be 
subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Janani 
Shankaran. The estimate was reviewed by Theresa Gullo, 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Statement

    Because S. 737 does not create any new programs, the 
legislation will have no additional regulatory impact, and will 
result in no additional reporting requirements. The legislation 
will have no further effect on the number or types of 
individuals and businesses regulated, the economic impact of 
such regulation, the personal privacy of affected individuals, 
or the paperwork required from such individuals and businesses.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 
rule.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Section 1. Short title.

    This section would provide that the bill may be cited as 
the ``Building Blocks of STEM Act''.

Section 2. Findings.

    This section would find that NSF is a major investor in 
STEM research and policy setting, and that young children who 
engage in science activities at an early age develop positive 
attitudes toward science and pursue STEM careers. This section 
would note, however, that the majority of NSF STEM research 
currently focuses on older age ranges. This section also would 
find that women and girls are underrepresented throughout all 
levels of education and the STEM workforce.

Section 3. Supporting early childhood STEM education research.

    This section would direct NSF to consider age distribution 
in order to more equitably allocate funding for research under 
the DRK-12 program.

Section 4. Supporting female students in prekindergarten through 
        elementary school in STEM education.

    This section would authorize NSF grants to identify what 
factors contribute to young girls' motivation to participate in 
STEM activities.

Section 5. Supporting female students in prekindergarten through 
        elementary school in computer science education.

    This section authorizes NSF grants to develop, implement, 
and evaluate programs in pre-K and elementary school classrooms 
that encourage the participation of young girls in computer 
science.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
material is printed in italic, existing law in which no change 
is proposed is shown in roman):

              AMERICAN INNOVATION AND COMPETITIVENESS ACT


                         [42 U.S.C. 1862s-5(d)]

SEC. 305. PROGRAMS TO EXPAND STEM OPPORTUNITIES

  (a) * * *
  (d) Grants To Broaden Participation.--
          (1) In general.--The Director of the Foundation shall 
        award grants on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis, to 
        eligible entities to increase the participation of 
        underrepresented populations in STEM fields, including 
        individuals identified in section 33 or section 34 of 
        the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (42 
        U.S.C. 1885a, 1885b).
          (2) Center of excellence.--
                  (A) In general.--Grants awarded under this 
                subsection may include grants for the 
                establishment of a Center of Excellence to 
                collect, maintain, and disseminate information 
                to increase participation of underrepresented 
                populations in STEM fields.
                  (B) Purpose.--The purpose of a Center of 
                Excellence under this subsection is to promote 
                diversity in STEM fields by building on the 
                success of the INCLUDES programs, providing 
                technical assistance, maintaining best 
                practices, and providing related training at 
                federally funded academic institutions.
          (3) Research.--As a component of improving 
        participation of women in STEM fields, research funded 
        by a grant under this subsection may include research 
        on--
                  (A) the role of teacher training and 
                professional development, including effective 
                incentive structures to encourage teachers to 
                participate in such training and professional 
                development, in encouraging or discouraging 
                female students in prekindergarten through 
                elementary school from participating in STEM 
                activities;
                  (B) the role of teachers in shaping 
                perceptions of STEM in female students in 
                prekindergarten through elementary school and 
                discouraging such students from participating 
                in STEM activities;
                  (C) the role of other facets of the learning 
                environment on the willingness of female 
                students in prekindergarten through elementary 
                school to participate in STEM activities, 
                including learning materials and textbooks, 
                classroom decorations, seating arrangements, 
                use of media and technology, classroom culture, 
                and gender composition of students during group 
                work;
                  (D) the role of parents and other caregivers 
                in encouraging or discouraging female students 
                in prekindergarten through elementary school 
                from participating in STEM activities;
                  (E) the types of STEM activities that 
                encourage greater participation by female 
                students in prekindergarten through elementary 
                school;
                  (F) the role of mentorship and best practices 
                in finding and utilizing mentors;
                  (G) the role of informal and out-of-school 
                STEM learning opportunities on the perception 
                of and participation in STEM activities of 
                female students in prekindergarten through 
                elementary school; and
                  (H) any other area the Director determines 
                will carry out the goal described in paragraph 
                (1).

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                         [42 U.S.C. 1862s-7(b)]

SEC. 310. COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION RESEARCH

  (a) Findings.--Congress finds that as the lead Federal agency 
for building the research knowledge base for computer science 
education, the Foundation is well positioned to make 
investments that will accelerate ongoing efforts to enable 
rigorous and engaging computer science throughout the Nation as 
an integral part of STEM education.
  (b) Grant Program.--
          (1) In general.--The Director of the Foundation shall 
        award grants to eligible entities to research computer 
        science education and computational thinking.
          (2) Research.--The research described in paragraph 
        (1) may include the development or adaptation, piloting 
        or full implementation, and testing of--
                  (A) models of preservice preparation for 
                teachers who will teach computer science and 
                computational thinking;
                  (B) scalable and sustainable models of 
                professional development and ongoing support 
                for the teachers described in subparagraph (A);
                  (C) tools and models for teaching and 
                learning aimed at supporting student success 
                and inclusion in computing within and across 
                diverse populations, particularly poor, rural, 
                and tribal populations and other populations 
                that have been historically underrepresented in 
                computer science and STEM fields; and
                  (D) high-quality learning opportunities for 
                teaching computer science and, especially in 
                poor, rural, or tribal schools at the 
                elementary school and middle school levels,for 
                integrating computational thinking into STEM 
                teaching and learning.
  (c) Collaborations.--In carrying out the grants established 
in subsection (b), eligible entities may collaborate and 
partner with local or remote schools to support the integration 
of computing and computational thinking within pre-kindergarten 
through grade 12 STEM curricula and instruction.
  (d) Metrics.--The Director of the Foundation shall develop 
metrics to measure the success of the grant program funded 
under this section in achieving program goals.
  (e) Report.--The Director of the Foundation shall report, in 
the annual budget submission to Congress, on the success of the 
program as measured by the metrics in subsection (d).
  (f) Definition of Eligible Entity.--In this section, the term 
``eligible entity'' means an institution of higher education or 
a nonprofit research organization.
          (3) Uses of funds.--The tools and models described in 
        paragraph (2)(C) may include--
                  (A) offering training and professional 
                development programs, including summer or 
                academic year institutes or workshops, designed 
                to strengthen the capabilities of 
                prekindergarten and elementary school teachers 
                and to familiarize such teachers with the role 
                of gender bias in the classroom;
                  (B) offering innovative pre-service and in-
                service programs that instruct teachers on 
                gender-inclusive practices for teaching 
                computing concepts;
                  (C) developing distance learning programs for 
                teachers or students, including developing 
                curricular materials, play-based computing 
                activities, and other resources for the in-
                service professional development of teachers 
                that are made available to teachers through the 
                Internet;
                  (D) developing or adapting prekindergarten 
                and elementary school computer science 
                curricular materials that incorporate 
                contemporary research on the science of 
                learning, particularly with respect to gender 
                inclusion;
                  (E) developing and offering gender-inclusive 
                computer science enrichment programs for 
                students, including after-school and summer 
                programs;
                  (F) providing mentors for female students in 
                prekindergarten through elementary school in 
                person and through the Internet to support such 
                students in participating in computer science 
                activities;
                  (G) engaging female students in 
                prekindergarten through elementary school and 
                their guardians about the difficulties faced by 
                such students to maintain an interest in 
                participating in computer science activities;
                  (H) acquainting female students in 
                prekindergarten through elementary school with 
                careers in computer science and encouraging 
                such students to consider careers in such 
                field;
                  (I) developing tools to evaluate activities 
                conducted under this subsection; and
                  (J) any other tools or models the Director 
                determines will accomplish the aim described in 
                paragraph (2)(C).