Fact Sheets

Smithsonian Science Education Center

July 1, 2013

History and Mission

  • The Smithsonian Institution and the National Academies—National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine—jointly established the Smithsonian Science Education Center in 1985.
  • These two widely respected scientific institutions provide the SSEC with a unique platform of expertise and resources to catalyze the improvement of K-16 science education programs in the United States and throughout the world.
  • Established two years after release of the report “A Nation at Risk” from the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983), when less than 1 percent of the districts in the country had effective science education programs.
  • Improve K-16 science learning and teaching for all students in the United States and throughout the world.

Strategic Approach

  • Developed an SSEC Theory of Action and ambitious business goals to guide the SSEC’s work and measure its impact.
  • Design leadership development programs and resources to move leaders representing education, government and business through a strategic process of science education reform: awareness of the problems of K-16 science education, development of a shared vision of effective science learning and teaching, knowledge of the systems required to support that vision at all levels of the K-16 science education system, development of strategic plans for transforming their districts’ and states’ science education program and delivery of the sustained technical assistance to support the implementation of those plans.
  • Work primarily with states, urban communities and other countries to execute this strategy.  


  • SSEC has provided leadership development programs for more than 1,200 district leaders representing 30 percent of the U.S. student population.
  • External evaluation studies provide evidence that more than 90 percent of these communities now value research-based science programs and have moved to implement and sustain effective science programs for all of their students.
  • Numerous long-term strategic partnerships have been established with states and other countries. U.S. states include Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, Alabama, North Carolina and Indiana. Many of these states now have evidence of significant improvements in student achievement in science; Delaware has closed the achievement gap at grade 4.
  • SSEC is nationally and internationally recognized for the quality and impact of its programs on the improvement of K–16 science education.

Future Goals and Growth Plans

Smithsonian Science Education Center’s long-term goals are to:

  • Develop at least 1,500 informed leaders from education, business, government and science who will champion science education reform efforts at the national, state and local levels during the next decade.
  • Engage and develop the leadership capacity of 7,000 education and community leaders representing several large urban and rural communities, and nine to 11 new states.
  • Develop partnerships with at least 20 major corporations and academic institutions that are working to improve science education.
  • Stimulate research and evaluation that will continuously improve and advance this work.
  • Increase public knowledge of the Smithsonian’s leadership in the transformation of science education.

# # #


Media Only
Marjee Chmiel
(202) 633-2967;

Media website