The Growth and Development of STEM Education Networks

  • October 9, 2012

By Stephanie Couch
CSUEB Institute for STEM Education

Amidst a steady stream of reports suggesting that young people are not acquiring the necessary knowledge, skills and capabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), STEM Education networks are emerging at the regional, statewide and national levels. These new organizations are working to align multiple types of stakeholders and resources in ways that produce a greater “collective impact”.

The rapidly developing networks are further evidence that education, business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders agree that remedying the underlying factors contributing to the STEM challenge will require a robust cross-sector approach.
While forming a multi-stakeholder STEM network is necessary for success, merely forming a network is not sufficient for bringing about lasting change. Every region across California has experienced the rise and fall of community/school partnerships – some were successful for a period of time, and some not.

While I don’t claim to have “the answer” to building a network that will remain highly effective and capable of sustaining its work over the long run, I can share a few of the strategies that Cal State East Bay is employing as it supports the growth and development of the Gateways East Bay STEM Network:
1) Bringing the right people to the table (i.e. local leaders from the different types of entities that have important contributions to make to a comprehensive STEM solution).

2) Reviewing research and data to better inform understandings of the STEM challenges students face as they move from “cradle to career”, best practices for addressing those challenges, and strategies for engaging stakeholders in developing a local strategy to address the challenges and assess progress over time.

3) Ensuring that “solutions” are “scalable” across the many types of districts/schools in a region.

4) Securing resources (time, talent and money) to support the work.

5) Maintaining ongoing communications within and across the governance team and any working groups, and with community stakeholders at-large.

These strategies have supported our network’s initial growth and development, and may be useful to others just emerging.
For more information about the Gateways East Bay STEM Network, see our network’s 2012 Community Stakeholder Report at www.eastbaystem.net.

Stephanie Couch is serving as both the Director of the Gateways East Bay STEM Network and the Director of CSU East Bay’s Institute for STEM Education. Dr. Couch’s focus on STEM grew out of work she was conducting with partners in the K12 and higher education communities associated with the use of emerging technology resources and tools in teaching/learning. As the Director of Statewide Initiatives for CENIC and the K20 California Educational Technology Collaborative (a joint effort of CENIC and the California Community Colleges), Dr. Couch facilitated the development of numerous partnerships that put technologies to use to support students and educators in new ways. Couch’s knowledge of the state policy making environment and school finance, stemming from her former work as an education advisor to two Speakers of the California State Assembly and as a consultant for the Senate Appropriations Committee, often affords opportunities for Couch to address educational technology policy matters.

Dr. Couch began her career as an education lobbyist for Murdoch, Mockler and Associates where she worked on state policy issues ranging from English language development and compensatory education to school finance and school facilities. She received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Davis, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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