When the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a request for proposals from across the country for states to compete for funds to design an evaluation system for STEM, the STEM Council was just a year into operation and poised to be the laboratory rat for other statewide STEM initiatives. The breadth of Iowa’s STEM program combined with its independent evaluation triad earned the NSF’s trust to be a “first-of-its-kind,” and in May 2013, awarded $1.2 million to design and pilot assessment strategies other states could replicate.
A unique collaboration of independent research centers at Iowa’s three Regents universities was assembled to execute the four-year project titled, “Iowa STEM Education Evaluation (I-SEE),” a model statewide STEM education evaluation program.
The I-SEE grant project is now in its final stages of monitoring and refining Iowa’s system to create a replicable, statewide evaluation model and inform other states on best practices in STEM evaluation. A team of researchers and student staff at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR), Iowa State University’s Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) and the University of Iowa’s Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) have made tremendous progress, including these main deliverables:
Statewide STEM Evaluation Model
This model attempts to define the people, resources and inputs that are key to a successful statewide STEM initiative by identifying the important steps to follow in an evaluation of a statewide STEM initiative. The focus is on the method with a culmination in a “how to” model for other states to use.
Professional Network Analysis
This analysis helps map the growth of STEM advocates in the state since the initiative was established in 2011, equipping the STEM Council with the ability to assess both the reach and depth of the STEM network and identify areas of the state that lack strong advocates.
A new website - findSTEMIowa.org – aims to be a statewide portal to inventory and identify local STEM opportunities, including STEM events, camps, programs and more. Users of the website may submit information about STEM-related content and events they know about or lead, or they can browse the information to learn more about STEM opportunities and resources across Iowa. Visit www.findSTEMIowa.org to get started.
As the grant project nears its conclusion, the I-SEE collaboration continues to work on a final evaluation of findSTEMIowa.org, further definition of the Iowa STEM professional network and the final version of Iowa’s statewide STEM model. The team will submit a final report later this summer. I-SEE was funded by the National Science Foundation Mathematics and Science Partnership grant program, number DRL-1238211.