STEM and Future Ready Iowa  

One year ago this month a Future Ready Iowa Alliance convened with the charge to develop, recommend and prioritize key strategies, policy steps and metrics to reach the goal of 70% of Iowans having education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. Their recommendations would be delivered to the Governor by October 31, 2017. Under the leadership of co-chairs Governor Kim Reynolds and Dan Houston, Chairman, President and CEO of Principal Financial, ably facilitated by Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, it came to be and embeds much STEM. A dozen Alliance members serve on the STEM Council as well, assuring that the innovative solutions crafted for STEM appear on the radar of all Alliance members. Five comprehensive and inter-related recommendations set the stage for Future Ready Iowa, each with a STEM flair:
  1. The Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship and Grant Program, which supports postsecondary credential attainment at the associate and bachelor's degree levels in high-demand fields like STEM.
  2. Better align and expand the ecosystem of support for Iowans beginning college or career training or returning to complete, with a focus on Iowans who are low income and/or underrepresented minorities. It will involve programs to inspire adults to return to college or complete certification in high-demand skills areas, incorporating credit for life/professional experience and improving remediation success.
  3. Expand high-quality work-based learning experiences in high-demand fields and careers for all students, particularly traditionally underrepresented students, including teacher-externships and  STEM BEST® models.
  4. Identify and scale effective early academic and career development and delivery approaches so all students are prepared for a changing world, including expansion of career information into content area coursework and emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving in class.
  5. Develop a grassroots strategy to engage the business community, sector boards, regional workforce boards, STEM regions and other regional collaborations to align with Alliance recommendations, including development of a "playbook" of best practices to strengthen relationships between businesses and education (see STEM's HERE).
The Future Ready Iowa recommendations are open for public comment. The future readiness of Iowa prominently features STEM.

November 4, 2017 - 9a to 12n
Page County STEM Festival
For more information, contact Southwest Regional STEM Manager Deb Frazee at
November 4, 2017 - 9a to 3p
STEM Fest 2017 - Healthy Living, Northwest Iowa Community College
Registration Link

November 7, 2017 - 4:00 p.m.
Cedar Valley STEM Festival
More Information

November 9, 2017 - 5:30 p.m.
St. Malachy Creston STEM Festival
For more information, contact SW Regional STEM Manager Deb Frazee.
Iowa STEM Operations Center
University of Northern Iowa
214 East Bartlett
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0298

PHONE 319-273-2959
E-MAIL Info@IowaSTEM.gov

T in STEM = Computer Science
In February 2014, ancient history by STEM time, the Governor's STEM Advisory Council launched a Computer Science (CS) Working Group to develop a set of recommendations to the STEM Council that would engage more Iowa youth in computer science, including programming and app development. Co-chaired by Mark Gruwell and Ann Watts, the group delivered a set of recommendations to the Council in summer of 2016 that spelled out a teacher endorsement in CS, a graduation requirement plan for CS and an incentive plan for schools to "ramp up" CS offerings.

In perhaps the ultimate compliment, the state legislature took up the matter during its next session, generating Senate File 274 that called for the state's Department of Education to "convene a computer science education work group" (including two invited members from the STEM CS group) to work out the details by November 1, 2017. Thanks to the deft facilitation of Director Ryan Wise and his team, those details have now been delivered as unanimous recommendations to the State Board of Education, the Governor's Office and the State Legislature. Summarily:
  1. Leverage a professional development incentive fund to require recipients to offer high-quality computer science, allowing mathematics or science credit under certain conditions, with an overarching intent that computer science will eventually become a high school graduation requirement for all students.
  2. Strengthen and expand CS course offerings into CTE pathways (by clarifying BOEE rules regarding teacher qualifications and by encouraging partnerships between schools and business and industry to help expand computer science CTE offerings, for example).
  3. Through the aforementioned professional development fund, prepare educators to deliver CS courses in person, online or in blended format.
  4. A committee (assembled by the Department of Education) is to develop CS standards K-12.
  5. Establish a competitive application process by which schools may procure aforementioned professional development funds to create innovative, diverse approaches to providing professional learning and scaling high-quality computer science instruction across Iowa.
The CS recommendations promise proximately to equip educators across Iowa for the fourth basic competency alongside reading, writing and arithmetic. Ultimately, the next generation of Iowans will have the tools they need to thrive in a technology-perfused future. The Iowa Department of Education Computer Science recommendations are to be presented to the State Board of Education in early November and will be available publicly shortly thereafter.
School + Business STEM Partnerships Reach 37  

A gathering of innovative school leaders from across Iowa took place last year - eighteen STEM BEST® partners assembled at Waukee APEX to strategize and chart a course to the future.

What began as a hunt for innovative excellence that routed through Kansas City's CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) and Brooklyn, New York's P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) in 2013 has become a bona fide movement custom-fitted to Iowa: STEM BEST ® (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers).

The STEM Council launched the request for proposals in 2014 that asked three key things of applicants: (1) co-mingle educators and employers to design meaningful curriculum and projects (with appropriate professional development); (2) conduct collaborative learning in authentic physical spaces; and (3) match the Council's $25,000 investment.

Five programs, all that applied, were awarded in 2014-15, bringing a total of $773,000 in cost sharing. Three more of eight applicants were awarded in 2015-16, bringing $630,000 in cost share. In 2016-17 ten more programs, some funded by private sector investors, were awarded (of 14 applicants) contributing $566,000 in cost sharing. For 2017-18 thanks to expanded Council financial support alongside generous contributors, nineteen new or expanded STEM BEST® friends are up and running (of 31 applicants). They bring to the table 163 total employer partners and commit over $2 million in cost share. They will be doing things like bringing local business projects and career awareness to students in Alburnett's "Pirate Collaborative" and launching a middle school Gateways to Technology and a high school pre-apprenticeship program in construction in Atlantic. High school seniors in Chariton will get work-based learning alongside 9 business partners, and Newton students will work at The Incubator on business-provided projects. Middle schoolers at North Iowa will work on app design, smart homes and other technologies alongside business partner Next Generation Technology.

More about these and all 19 new programs may be found here. The operations team is grateful to many partners who helped to promote the application, including the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, as well as Regional STEM Advisory Board members and STEM Council members.

Governor's STEM Advisory Council
Charts Course Ahead

Governor Reynolds delivered opening remarks at the Governor's STEM Advisory Council meeting at Camp Dodge on October 2, hosted by Major General Timothy Orr, Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard and STEM Council member.

In the throes of the largest single-unit overseas deployment since 2010 -- the 248th Aviation Support Battalion to Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as deploying units to hurricane relief -- leaders at Camp Dodge executed another mission flawlessly: hosting the Governor's STEM Advisory Council on October 2.

The meeting was preceded by the Governor's press conference on the premises, featuring the release of the Council's 2016-17 evaluation report. Sixty-five leaders from across industry, education, nonprofit and policy represented the Governor's STEM Advisory Council and affiliates at the meeting.

Matters taken up ranged from   Regional Hubs renewal status, to annual evaluation results, to STEM Teacher Externships, to National Guard STEM programs, to strategic discussion on Council priorities for the year ahead. Members and associates brainstormed areas of most pressing prioritization and came forth with these nine to guide operations in the coming year (in order of most to least frequently cited):
  1. Messaging to students - excitement and opportunity of STEM, including Trades path
  2. Diversity and equity of opportunity in STEM
  3. Sustain and infuse STEM into existent structures through Future Ready Iowa, through the Department of Education and Iowa Core, through engagement of SEA, IASB, ISEA, PTA, etc.
  4. Business engagement (e.g., by growing STEM teacher externships, education-business networks, etc.)
  5. More informal/nonformal engagement
  6. Early childhood education through post-secondary - systemic
  7. More data points to drive decision-making
  8. Involve parents; message to parents
  9. Involve higher education beyond teacher preparation
The 2018 assessment report for STEM will include metrics on these priorities, especially the top three. The next meeting of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council is scheduled for April 5, 2018.