Monday, August 29, 2011

Change the Equation: A Rubric for Corporate Philanthropy in STEM Learning

There’s no doubt that STEM education is getting more attention these days. Education advocates, professional scientific organizations, and governments at the local, state, and federal levels have stepped up their commitments to promoting STEM. Increasingly, corporations are coming to understand that supporting STEM education is essential for ensuring that there is a STEM workforce in the future.

Change the Equation (CTEq), a group of more than 110 corporate leaders devoted to supporting STEM education programs, has released two guiding documents for their members and other corporate philanthropists interested in STEM learning. The Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy and the accompanying Rubric are designed to help corporate leaders support STEM learning in a way that will have a meaningful impact and align their philanthropic goals around common interests. The Design Principles draw on research and the real-world experiences of corporate philanthropic leaders.

The Design Principles outlines eight overarching principles to use as a framework when partnering with a STEM education partner:

·      Address a compelling and well-defined need
·      Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress toward ambitious but manageable goals
·      Ensure work is sustainable
·      Promote replicability and scalability
·      Identify outside conditions that can hinder or thwart progress
·      Create high-impact partnerships
·      Ensure individual attention to diverse learners’ needs
·      Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals

In addition, there are six STEM-specific principles:

·      Offer challenging and relevant STEM content
·      Include a focus on “21st century skills”
·      Inspire interest and engagement in STEM
·      Encourage hands-on, inquiry-based learning
·      Address the needs of underrepresented groups
·      Ensure the capacity of program staff or volunteers to promote student learning in STEM

Notably, the Design Principles and Rubrics are not designed to be a checklist for corporate partners to evaluate STEM education programs. Rather, they serve as a guideline for corporate leaders who want to make the greatest impact in their philanthropy. Furthermore, the Design Principles are a work in progress, and Change the Equation’s website says that the organization will “refine and improve them as [they] learn more from our member companies and other leaders in STEM learning.”

What does this mean for afterschool programs? Afterschool practitioners and intermediaries may find that they are already doing many of the things outlined by the Principles—especially if their program is concerned with youth development. Since the Principles are not a checklist for evaluation, programs should not feel that they have to meet all of the criteria outlined in the Rubric. Rather than be a hard and fast rule for determining quality, the Design Principles could provide a common ground for corporate philanthropists and STEM educators to have a conversation about STEM learning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Member Blog Post: Techbridge Student Wins NCWIT Bay Area Affiliate Award

We recently got a message from the National Center for Women & Information Technology about the winner of their Bay Area affiliate award, Ana Peña , who happens to be a participant of Coalition member Techbridge. Read on to find out about her project--and how a girl in your community could be a winner too! Congratulations, Ana!

"Ana first became interested in programming through the Techbridge after-school program.  She really enjoyed the challenging aspect of programming a robot to move and making a roller coaster function.  At Techbridge, Ana has also worked on a project making a clay animation movie.

She loves to help other Techbridge students with their programming problems, and is the go-to person in her family if anyone has problems with their computers.  Ana would like to combine her programming skills with her passion for architecture and maybe help to design and program roller coaster for amusement parks.

Unfortunately, interested and well-prepared young women like Ana often don’t choose a computer science major. Only 18% of computer and information science degrees were awarded to women in 2009 (11% at major research universities), though 57% of college degrees are awarded to women. (source NCWIT By the Numbers 2010)  The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is designed to reverse this trend by identifying, recognizing and supporting  young women interested in and aspiring to pursue a major in computing. 

Founded in 2007, the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing has grown to a combined National and Affiliate program with local awards serving 22 states in 2011.  To date NCWIT has recognized 855 young women and plans to grow the award program to a reach of 10,000 young women and recognize 1,000 award recipients annually.

Contrary to the name, the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is much more than an award program.  Recipients are provided long-term support for their interests in computing through peer networking, mentorship, scholarships and access to opportunities. 

Applications open September 15, 2011 for the 2012 competition.  All high school young women residing in the US are eligible to apply for regional awards if offered in their area, as well as the national award.  Girls, parents and teachers should visit for more information about both opportunities."

Monday, August 01, 2011

A Framework for K-12 Science Education

Last week, we were lucky to attend a staff lecture hosted by our host institution, the Lawrence Hall of Science, featuring Dr. Helen Quinn, a professor of physics at Stanford University and chair of the National Academy of Sciences committee that issued the new Framework for K-12 Science Education. Dr. Quinn talked about the process behind designing the Framework, and why it's different from other recommendations in the past.

Symmetry Breaking, a physics publication, just did a Q&A with Dr. Quinn on the new recommendations.

What are your thoughts on the recommendations?