STEM Scholars

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Mission: To increase promising urban students' matriculation into college and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields by providing a STEM immersion portal to enhance STEM subject knowledge and problem-solving skills.

Vision: To provide a platform for science- and technology-based economic development in a population traditionally lacking opportunities for growth and empowerment in those fields.

Need: According to the most recent international testing, American students rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math—concerning results as the country aims to remain competitive in the global economy. In Pennsylvania, students consistently score significantly lower on the science section of the state standardized exam than they do on reading, writing, and math sections. Only 61% of all students statewide ranked "proficient" or "advanced" in science in 2012, and testing shows that science knowledge tends to decrease with age. Results from The School District of Philadelphia are especially bleak: of fourth-grade students, 37% tested at a proficient level in 2012, which fell to 18% for eighth graders and to less than 11% for eleventh graders. Across all grade levels, race and ethnicity tend to further impact science learning: while 51% of Philadelphia's white students scored "proficient" or "advanced," only 29% of Hispanic students and 24% of black students achieved the same. According to data collected by the Education Department for the 2010-2011 school year, graduation rates for ninth-grade students who graduated with a standard high school diploma within four years were 88% for Pennsylvania's white students, but fell to 65% for black students and 65% for Hispanic students. STEM Scholars targets underserved students who show interest and promise in STEM subjects in middle school and works to further develop their skills over the next four years (when skills otherwise tend to stagnate or decline drastically, as seen from the noticeable drop in state exam proficiency rates from grades 4 to 11).

History: The STEM Scholars program is under the umbrella of The Franklin Institute. The program is working to "change the DNA of STEM education" by incorporating technology, academic enrichment, exposure to related industries, and informal science learning in an inclusive environment. Its activities are challenging and relevant to the demands of today's world and workforce. Officially launched in March 2011, it will reach its carrying capacity of 60 students in spring 2014.

STEM Scholars is managed by Danielle Marino, who has been with the program since fall 2011, under the leadership of the Senior Vice President of Science, Dr. Frederic Bertley. It depends heavily on an array of volunteers from universities, corporations, and more who donate their time and energy to immerse students in STEM learning, both at The Franklin Institute and in area labs. During their 2013 Summer program, the STEM Scholars participated in 13 field trips and over 50 volunteer lead workshops.

Additional Information:

Four-year STEM Scholars programming includes:
- STEM career immersion experiences
- Informal/formal science experiences
- Personal profile management
- College preparation, including SAT/ACT tutoring
- Paid research experiences

Program goals:
- Increase in matriculation to college
- Increase in matriculation in STEM disciplines
- Increase in college retention
- Increase in college graduation from STEM concentrations
- Increase in matriculation into higher degree programs in STEM
- Increase in primary or secondary workforce entrance in industry

Student expectations:
- Commitment of 4 years (must sign letter of intent)
- Participate in all aspects of program
- Demonstrate excellent behavior
- Be on time
- Complete all assignments

Parent/Guardian expectations:
- Support student commitment and attendance
- Be open and responsive to contact from program staff
- Attend student-lead showcases, when possible