|Photo by Gage Skidmore.|
As expected, President Trump’s long-awaited “skinny budget” contained deep cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Particularly disappointing to those of us in the afterschool STEM education community are the outright eliminations of the programs that help young people develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, literacy and proficiency—the currency needed to be hired in our modern world.
The elephant in the room
Let’s start with the biggest concern: the budget proposes to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the sole federal funding source exclusively for afterschool. This program provides 1.6 million kids with innovative learning spaces after school.
Nearly 70 percent of parents with kids enrolled in afterschool programs report that their children receive some form of STEM learning opportunity in this setting. Not only that, 70 percent of all parents believe that afterschool programs should offer STEM activities and programming.
Don’t cut what works
Despite claims to the contrary, a great deal of widely available research illustrates the impact of afterschool programs, and substantial evidence documents STEM-specific outcomes. A recent multi-state study found that afterschool STEM programs are helping to close America’s skills gap. STEM Ready America, a recently-released compendium of articles from 40 experts, presents compelling evidence of the impact of afterschool STEM.
The Afterschool Alliance has long tracked outcomes and best practices in afterschool STEM programming, including a recent paper on the impacts of afterschool STEM. Our Afterschool Impacts Database offers a searchable, user-friendly collection of impacts data, and our STEM program profiles share examples of innovative afterschool STEM programs.
Additional proposed cuts in key areas for afterschool STEM
Collaboration between school and afterschool. The budget proposal does not mention the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, the new Title IV Part A block grant program authorized under ESSA that focuses heavily on STEM education, including in afterschool. This likely implies that no funding is sought for this program.
This is a huge disappointment. The activities authorized under this grant specifically supported well-rounded learning activities with a strong emphasis on STEM education and encouraged collaboration among personnel in schools, afterschool programs, and informal programs to better integrate programming and instruction in STEM subjects.
Professional development. The budget also eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II of ESSA), which supports teacher professional development. The loss is a blow to afterschool STEM because these funds offer a way to support joint professional development and collaborations between in-school and out-of-school educators.
Programs. In addition to drastic cuts at the Department of Education, the proposal eliminates the $115 million budget for NASA’s Office of Education. This amounts to just 0.5 percent of NASA’s overall budget and less than 0.003 percent of the federal budget.
Afterschool STEM programming shone brightly under the spotlight this week with the release of a research study on outcomes and a compendium of articles presenting research and examples of effective afterschool STEM programming.
STEM Next at the University of San Diego (carrying on the work of the Noyce Foundation) and the Mott Foundation partnered to host an event at the National Press Club on March 1 celebrating afterschool STEM programming and its role in preparing young people for the workforce. Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr., an extremely distinguished scientist and professor at the University of Maryland gave the keynote address. Dr. Gates was also on President Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, where he played a key role in advocating for STEM education. It was in this latter capacity that Dr. Gates discussed his belief in the value of informal and afterschool STEM learning, recognizing that drawing young people into STEM fields is often more of an emotional issue than an intellectual one.
This last point is a special strength of afterschool programs, evident in the findings from an 11-state study conducted by Dr. Gil Noam and his team at Harvard’s PEAR Institute and Dr. Todd Little and his team at Texas Tech University’s Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis, and Policy (IMMAP). They gathered and analyzed outcomes reported by 1600 students and nearly 150 facilitators in 160 afterschool programs. The data show that afterschool STEM programs substantially increase young people’s interest in STEM fields and STEM careers and can also help students to think of themselves as capable of doing science. You can read more about these findings.
By Rachel Clark
21st century skills like critical thinking and perseverance are in high demand in today’s workforce—but executives report a severe gap between the skills they need and the skills workers have. New findings from the Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, previewed today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., demonstrate that afterschool programs play a vital role in closing the gap by helping students develop the skills to succeed in school, work, and life.
Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next, the study surfaced several key findings that illustrate the potential for afterschool to prepare students for future success:
- 72 percent of students reported an increase in their perseverance and critical thinking skills
- 73 percent reported an increase in their personal belief that they can succeed at science
- 78 percent reported a positive change in their interest in science
- 80 percent reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge
Check out findings from the study in the new “STEM Ready America” compendium, alongside articles from 40 experts and thought leaders in the out-of-school time and STEM learning spaces—and stay tuned for the release of the full study later this month.
Are you interested in collaborations that bridge out-of-school and in-school STEM learning? Check out the new peer-reviewed online journal, Connected Science Learning, a project from the National Science Teachers Association and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.
Connected Science Learning is a useful tool for educators and policy makers, as it highlights effective models of schools and teachers working together with afterschool and summer programs, along with informal science education instituations such as science centers, zoos, and museums. Each issue of Connected Science Learning features articles in four categories: “Research to Practice, Practice to Research,” “Diversity and Equity,” “Emerging Connections,” and “Connected Science Learning Briefs.” The recently-released second issue focuses on professional development.
Check out a few of our favorite articles from the first two issues.
New evaluation data from a school-university-afterschool partnership: Science Club, a partnership between Northwestern University, Chicago Public School teachers, and the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, uses long-term mentoring relationships to engage low-income urban youth in science. We’ve profiled Science Club before, and they even won our 2014 Afterschool STEM Impact Award!
In the first issue of Connected Science Learning, they reveal impressive evaluation data showing that students that participated in Science Club improved their science fair project grades across the board. Read more about Science Club in issue one of Connected Science Learning.
An explainer on STEM learning ecologies: You may have heard the phrases “STEM learning ecosystem” or “ecology of learning.” This article parses out exactly what that means, and how connected learning can assist in accomplishing the same goals. Through the framework of STEM learning ecologies, we understand that learning takes place in all environments (school, home, afterschool, and more), all of the time, and is influenced by the people and the opportunities surrounding a student. Connected learning refers to effective and intentional ways of connecting students to external resources, and in turn expanding a student’s learning ecology. Read more about how these two concepts are linked in issue one of Connected Science Learning.
Supporting girls in career and technical education with SciGirls: In an initiative to increase the number of girls in STEM career pathways, SciGirls, a PBS media education initiative, is working on a new project that provides teachers with professional development in career and technical education (CTE), gender-equitable teaching strategies, and trainings on the importance of female STEM role models. The course emphasizes their original “SciGirls Seven,” which provides concrete, research-based strategies to engage girls in STEM.
Over the next two years, SciGirls Strategies will train 48 more teachers and reach more than 400 girls in Twin Cities-area schools. For afterschool providers interested in the CTE space, the findings are likely to be applicable. Read more about SciGirls Strategies and the research that they are conducting in issue two of Connected Science Learning.
GENIAL, Generating Engagement and New Initiatives for All Latinos, is a new National Science Foundation project focusing on increasing Latino participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) within informal or out-of-school time environments. The goal is to bring together practitioners, community leaders, diversity-focused organizations, researchers, and media/marketing specialists from across the country to identify field-wide best practices, opportunities, emerging research questions, and gaps.
If you're passionate about engaging Latinos in out-of-school STEM, apply by Tuesday, February 28 to attend a two-day summit on June 5 and 6, 2017 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Calif. Participants will hear from dynamic keynote speakers and engage in conversations, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking to contribute knowledge and experience that will inform future research and practice in and advancement of the field.
Goals of the summit
- Assess the current state of the field in providing effective informal STEM experiences for Latinos
- Identify needs and gaps in informal STEM environments
- Identify emerging research questions with an outlook toward the future
- Contribute to a more informed informal STEM field
Who should apply?
GENIAL is seeking professionals with diverse perspectives of and experiences with engaging Latino communities in STEM learning. Leaders of community-based organizations, including afterschool and summer learning programs; cultural organization practitioners; researchers; policy-makers; and media, marketing, and technology professionals who:
- Have at least two years’ experience and are currently employed in the United States in informal learning, nonprofit media or community-based organizations that serve Latino and/or other diverse and underserved communities
- Are involved in and/or interested in applying best practices to engaging Latino audiences in informal learning environments
- Are committed to sharing and implementing ideas from the GENIAL summit with colleagues and providing feedback
The cost for the two-day summit is $250. Selected applicants will receive a stipend ranging from partial to full coverage of travel expenses and the registration fee.
Submit this quick application by midnight PST on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.
Program participants will use coding to explore and create art, storytelling, robotics, video games, websites, and apps. Participants will also visit tech companies and gain an understanding of STEM careers by meeting female engineers and entrepreneurs. If you have female students who are interested in coding or STEM, encourage them to apply! Applications are due March 17th, and additional stipends are available to cover living expenses and transportation to support students who qualify.
Girls Who Code will be hosting 18 Summer Immersion Programs in the following cities:
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Austin, Texas
- Boston, Mass.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Miami, Fla.
- Newark, N.J.
- New York City, N.Y.
- San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Stamford, Conn.
- Washington, D.C.
In a surprise move, Congress sent the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (formerly called America COMPETES) to the President for his signature late last week. The legislation authorizes research investments and the STEM education investments of various science mission agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Energy.
The Afterschool Alliance has worked for several years to ensure that language supportive of afterschool is included in this bill as we recognize the importance of building bridges between STEM professionals and the afterschool field. We are delighted to report that the final bill includes several provisions that recognize the importance of out-of-school learning for STEM.
Of specific interest is Title III, the section on STEM education, and the following items in that title.
In the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, there is a discussion of innovative practices in STEM teacher recruitment and retention. This includes partnering with nonprofit or professional associations to provide the fellowship’s recipients with opportunities for professional development, as well as conducting pilot programs to improve teacher service and retention.
What it means for afterschool: This may provide an opening for afterschool providers to collaborate with schools of teacher education in innovative ways, including practicum placements for student teachers in afterschool STEM programs.
A STEM education advisory panel is to be set up jointly by the Secretary of Education, the Director of NSF, the NASA Administrator and the Administrator of NOAA to advise the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM).
This panel is required to have at least 11 members and include individuals from academic institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations, including in-school, out-of-school, and informal education practitioners. The group will guide CoSTEM on “various aspects of federal investment in STEM education including ways to better vertically and horizontally integrate Federal STEM education programs and activities from pre-kindergarten through graduate study and the workforce, and from in-school to out-of-school in order to improve transitions for students moving through the STEM education and workforce pipelines.”
What it means for afterschool: This provides an opening for afterschool advocates to nominate experts in informal STEM education who understand afterschool STEM programming deeply. This perspective would be valuable and influential on the STEM education advisory panel.
In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, we’re proud to release our new report, “Growing computer science education in afterschool: Opportunities and challenges.” A diverse group of stakeholders—including educators, business and industry, policy makers, and parents—agree that computer science education is vital for kids to become the creators and innovators for the next generation, making technology work for them and designing solutions for their communities.
In the report, we asked the afterschool field what they thought about computer science education. They responded with overwhelming interest: 59 percent of our survey respondents were either offering computing to their students at the time of the survey or had offered it in the past, with the majority saying they were highly likely to offer it again. Among the programs that had never offered computing education before (40 percent of respondents), 89 percent indicated a high or medium level of interest in trying it out.
Despite this strong interest, afterschool providers indicated some big challenges to offering computer science to their students, especially finding qualified educators to teach it, securing funding, and accessing necessary technology. To address these common challenges, as well as other issues mentioned in our focus groups, our report offers nine recommendations for K-12 computer science education stakeholders:
For afterschool leaders and practitioners:
- Document promising practices.
- Share existing resources more broadly.
- Support individual afterschool programs’ capacity for partnerships.
For computer science education experts:
- Conduct targeted outreach to the afterschool field to educate them on computing.
- Increase professional development opportunities for out-of-school time educators.
- Develop engaging curricula designed for the afterschool environment.
For industry partners and grantmakers:
- Engage and invest in meaningful partnerships with afterschool providers.
- Support training for employee volunteers.
- Provide and promote a diverse array of funding opportunities.
For more details on our recommendations, and how you can implement them, download the full report!
We hope that our findings will help K-12 computer science education stakeholders support the growth of quality, sustainable computing education within the afterschool field. Read the full report today, and be sure to forward it to your friends and colleagues.