The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, May 14, 2007

The STEM Accelerator Initiative

I’ve written recently about the competing aims of equity and excellence in public education: in short, it’s nearly impossible to create a system that generates both outcomes, and our current focus (after a history of lurching between the two) is on equity. This is evidenced by the goal of NCLB, which seeks to ensure that every child is able to clear a minimal bar in core subjects.

Equity is certainly a laudable goal, and it may in fact be the proper mindset for universal public education. However, educating to a baseline does little to help the employers who need highly capable employees to compete in a knowledge economy at a global level. Since the public education system cannot pursue excellence while simultaneously focusing on equity, outside support is clearly required if we are to sustain and increase the pipeline of highly capable workers.

I’m fortunate to be working with a nonprofit group interested in increasing the number of prepared workers – and they not only have an innovative program model grounded in the operating principles of business, but they are uniquely qualified to carry out this plan. (And to be clear, they are a client – but this is something I would be writing about regardless, since I believe in their approach and believe that others can learn from it.)

NASSMC (The National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions) has launched the STEM Accelerator Initiative (SAI), a program designed to identify and support STEM education programs that are making a demonstrated and verifiable impact on the STEM workforce pipeline. (You can go here to learn more about the project - lots of good information available.)

There are a few interesting elements to NASSMC’s approach on this project:


  • Second-stage support – Most programs provide support to new programs; while it is essential to experiment with new approaches in order to innovate, there’s no guarantee that these programs will make a difference in academic performance or career awareness/selection. SAI, on the other hand, only provides support to those programs that have been around long enough to generate evidence of their effectiveness, which means that every single program that SAI supports will have an impact on the STEM workforce pipeline in either the immediate or long term.
  • Multitude of services – SAI provides far more to programs than simply funds: its goal is to help these proven programs to either become sustainable or to scale (depending in the stage of the program), and it takes more than money to do that. Therefore, NASSMC will provide selected programs with full support based on their needs, including funds of course but also including help with planning, evaluation, business operations, fundraising, communications, and partnership development.
  • Coalition - One of NASSMC's great strengths is its network of 42 state-level coalitions, which are comprised of business, education, and government leaders. These coalitions understand their local markets intimately, and will be involved not only in identifying eligible programs but also in providing some of the services mentioned above. Their knowledge of local markets, including the requirements, priorities, funding models, and political realities within their states, makes them an invaluable and central element to SAI's success.

As I mentioned, the project has just been launched, and we’re in the early stages of fundraising and campaign implementation. Of course, if you’d like information on joining the project as a sponsor or partner, let me know and I’ll share more on the opportunities and advantages available to you through this program.

I’ll post updates as they occur – this should be a project worth watching.

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