STEM Across the States: Insights from 200 Regional Partners and Allies Coming Together at Back-to-School Breakfasts

November 15, 2016

This fall, approximately 200 partner and ally representatives came together across 8 regions at Back-to-School Breakfasts. At these breakfasts, partners reconnected as a region, discussed their work, shared challenges, and collectively brainstormed solutions and bright spots. Through learning about partner work and ideating around how to solve challenges, partners walked away with immediate next steps to implement - whether that be to have an internal conversation, follow up with a partner, or research a particular program to learn more.

Texas partners take a group selfie at the Breakfast hosted by the Center for STEM Education at UT Austin

While many of the conversations discussed specific local challenges and approaches, key themes bubbled up across different regions. One particular challenge, how to elevate teacher voice and create space for teachers to experiment, resonated across breakfasts, including New York City, the Bay Area, Texas, Arizona, and Boston. Partners in these regions discussed how a key lever in making progress against this challenge is principal and administration buy-in and comfort with failure. In Arizona, partners discussed the potential of creating a principal mentorship program with industry experts, with an emphasis on creating a deeper understanding of the value of failure and creativity, along with a greater appreciation of its critical importance to STEM. Partners in Boston noted how a key barrier for administrators and principals is the time spent on non-instructional issues, and if this could be changed, we might see greater progress.

Partners digging into discussion at the Colorado Breakfast, co-hosted by the Colorado Education Initiative and PEBC

Another popular challenge area was how to increase teacher prestige and channel that into improving recruitment efforts. Partners in DC discussed barriers for candidates entering the field, ranging from a lack of support and understanding from parents and families, to many advisors at universities not knowing how to best support their STEM undergraduates to pursue teaching. As both a potential way to interest STEM majors in teaching, and to foster greater appreciation and support of STEM teaching by STEM professionals should they not pursue teaching, GWU Teach offers an introduction class to teaching that is open to all STEM majors, which gives them the opportunity to investigate teaching and see if they might want to pursue it further. Partners in Colorado discussed the idea of a one year fellowship program for post graduates that is half teaching and half industry for students to test potential career pathways and get a real-life taste for teaching, while also gaining industry experience.

Partners deep in thought at the Bay Area Back-to-School Breakfast, hosted by the CDE Foundation

Professional development was a hot topic as well, particularly around how to ensure STEM teachers have access to strong PD and for PD providers to maintain relationships with districts. Other challenges like ensuring that PD is not a one-off opportunity but deeper, fully integrated and standardized, echoed across breakfasts from DC, Colorado, Arizona, and Boston. Approaches that could help alleviate these challenges and challenges around teacher flexibility discussed in Boston included partnering teachers with professionals to develop integrated PD opportunities. Partners in Colorado convened a meeting after the breakfast to discuss ways to map out all the available PD opportunities being offered by partners across the state, and focus on teachers as the audience of a searchable PD database. At the DC Breakfast, National Geographic noted that they’ve been working with Digital Promise to make their PD more meaningful and relevant in districts and schools by using microcredentials to recognize progress or achievement.

As 100Kin10 seeks to support partners to work together to tackle the Grand Challenges and Root Causes, we are excited to see how partners continue to learn from each other to ideate around challenges, implement new and adapted solutions, and continue to improve existing ones. Stay tuned for more information this winter about how 100Kin10 plans to mobilize partners to form small groups and take on the Grand Challenges.