organizations that develop STEM education programs with a track record for effectiveness. They are willing to invest in formal programs that support teachers and students in schools but are particularly drawn to informal education, in part because schools and districts can be very challenging for them to understand and navigate, while they can work with out-of-school partners more easily and see the impact of their work more immediately. When working with schools and districts, they often seek a commitment from the district so that there is a reasonable expectation that the program can be sustained after the partnership ends.
All three panelists agreed that it is important to find programs that can be scaled up to benefit not just one or two schools but hundreds, but they also noted how difficult that can be in practice. Gartzman reminded the group of earlier discussions of the importance of school context to outcomes. He suggested that the business community may underestimate what is required to achieve the desired outcomes. A participant noted that the focus on informal partnerships and working around district policies was a cause for concern and wondered what it takes to develop successful partnerships within formal K-12 STEM education.
Lujan agreed with Gartzman that listening carefully to districts to understand the challenges that impede their progress is critical. In the context of the Lawrence Hall of Science’s BaySci project, she noted, teachers worried that they could not teach science effectively, given the constraints on classroom time because of testing requirements for mathematics and English language arts. BaySci staff worked with the districts and school leaders to help them convey to teachers that they had “permission” to spend time on science and help them reconcile competing demands from the district, the school, and the classroom.
Rosen added that the CEOs had found success in focusing on formal professional development, and Gartzman cited as just one example the Chicago algebra initiative, which was designed to increase the number of students taking algebra by 8th grade. They worked with Chicago-area universities to help increase the number of teachers who had the preparation and credentials to teach algebra: the universities created a 1-year course, which they taught jointly, as well as a credentialing exam.