What Is Reasonable for Science Implementation and Sustainability?

The numbers you’re about to read might surprise you, but they have been collected carefully and are accurate representations of what you could be spending on high-quality STEM curriculum, provided you have a willingness to break out of that 7-year cycle.

KnowAtom Implementation Example

The cost of implementing and maintaining KnowAtom is significantly lower than a district typically pays for ongoing STEM curriculum and materials costs.

Complete implementation of KnowAtom curriculum in the first year, including curriculum, materials, tools and so on, ranges from $6 to $11 per student per month. Sustaining KnowAtom curriculum, which comes complete with maintenance, ordering and all other services needed to fully keep up the curriculum, costs only $3 to $6 per student per month.

These numbers are a far cry from the $15 most districts are paying per student per month for science education right now. The reason the cost of textbook purchases seems lower than these numbers is due entirely to the fact that the costs of replenishment, teacher reimbursement and professional development are disregarded, not to mention the cost of bringing in consultants to fill in the gaps of curriculum that has been completely patched together.

Once you include out-of-pocket teacher expenditures, there is absolutely no contest whatsoever. While concrete numbers vary, the average teacher spends on average about $1,200 a year, with some teachers spending as much as $5,000. That represents a huge hole in student learning if or when teachers choose not to do it. Luckily, we can completely reverse the trend simply by rethinking how we budget for STEM education.

The important thing to note is that those uncaptured costs are real costs. They are also a burden and a barrier to implementation in the classroom, which is why it’s so important to have kit materials that match the curriculum and enable teachers to execute it with fidelity and full release responsibility in the way it's designed and communicated in professional development.

Let’s spend a little time talking about the way our model works. In the first year, everybody gets tools, consumables and binders, as well as online access. Then, as long as the district is under contract with us, we deliver updates to curriculum and consumables on a regular basis to reflect changes in standards. We also put out new releases, which will represent slightly bigger changes than updates. Either way, though, teachers are never teaching a brand new program every year but can rely on curriculum staying familiar from one year to the next. That is what curriculum needs to do in order to support students from September through June and year to year.

Whether you write curriculum yourself or go with a commercially available organization such as KnowAtom, remember to keep PEEC-alignment in mind. We, for instance, are PEEC-aligned and use EQuIP Rubrics for Science. As a side note, if you are writing a grant for KnowAtom, we offer a free grant review and feedback. This can help you strengthen your application and better frame your community's needs and map to the interest of the organization from whom you’re requesting grant money.

The Bottom Line

To return to the idea of implementing and sustaining effective NGSS-aligned STEM education, it is critically important that you ensure your district does so on a yearly basis, does not expect teachers to pick up the slack regarding either development of the curriculum or out-of-pocket provision of materials, and that you teach to standards rather than mistaking standards for curriculum and teaching them on their own.

Only by using the standards to roadmap curriculum that will introduce students to disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts while using the science and engineering practices can you ensure the development of higher order thinking skills. And only by ensuring that students routinely get the option to engage as scientists and engineers—creating, evaluating and analyzing on a weekly basis—can you ensure that they are adequately prepared to succeed in higher education and career.

Whether you're teaching here in the United States or abroad, giving your students the tools to ask and answer questions or pose and solve problems is invaluable. Students who experience freedom of inquiry and who can engage independently with materials as scientists and engineers do are prepared for a wide range of careers far beyond the confines of STEM. That preparation should be the root goal of any educator, and certainly is the goal for us here at KnowAtom.

“Growing up, I wanted to be an inventor, solving problems that would help people have better lives. Every day at KnowAtom is an opportunity to invent solutions that give thousands of students and teachers a better experience doing science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM). Providing educators with professional satisfaction and students with the opportunity to understand the world we live in is my way of helping people have better lives.”