Building a new state-wide educational consortium
Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network is a nonprofit organization that works to expand learning activities for students outside of the traditional school day, such as after school and during the summer. MOST received a grant from the Noyce Foundation to create a statewide plan to expand afterschool and summer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programming.
In recent years, STEM has become a major area of focus in education. Numerous international reports pointed to a decline in participation and performance of U.S. students in science and mathematics, and increased demand for people with STEM degrees.
By 2012, many organizations, such as non-profits, businesses, and colleges, were developing and offering STEM education programs for students in grades K-12. There was, however, no central repository of information about these programs, and no formal collaboration structure to support the many organizations offering STEM programs.
MOST wanted to fill this gap and facilitate a process that would result in a statewide plan for expanding afterschool and summer STEM programming, with special emphasis on high-need communities and under-represented populations. And MOST wanted to do this with the participation of as many STEM stakeholders as possible.
In order for MOST to develop a plan for expanding out of school time STEM learning opportunities, it needed to know what programs were already in place and where the gaps existed. It also needs to collect data to evaluate existing programs. This was a challenging requirement because the sources of the information were not centralized, and some communities were reluctant to share information about their programs and funding streams. Our approach anticipated some of these challenges.
First we created a list of the data points we wanted to gather. We then created a survey to collect and analyze data on STEM programs. We then identified champions of the data collection work and solicited their help in promoting the effort. We collected data on hundreds of STEM education programs around the state, which was then used to inform the strategic planning process.
Next, we established a strategic planning committee and set up a schedule of meetings and milestones. Profile Partners was responsible for facilitating this process and the meetings. In short, we developed realistic, fast‐paced meeting agendas that allowed for group discussion and resulted in action. We identified specific meeting objectives and communicated those to participants. We also created visuals and support materials to guide the conversation.
After each meeting, we summarized its progress and articulated the next steps, keeping the group on task. Information and minutes from these meetings was used to develop the strategic plan draft.
This work resulted in the establishment of a state-wide collaborative network of out-of-school-time STEM program providers, colleges and universities, funding partners, and policy-makers. This group works to make sure that out of school time program providers and partners have access to a set of tools and resources to support the growth of out-of-school-time STEM programs across the state. For more information on MOST STEM programs, go to http://mdoutofschooltime.org/initiatives/stem.