Measurement is baked into the DNA of Iowa’s statewide STEM programming thanks to early insistence by STEM Council members to track and monitor effects. How else, they reasoned, would we know if we’re making a difference? Any lingering hesitance on the part of Council members to commit resources for evaluating effect was dispelled by Dr. Gene Lutz who directed the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa during those early days, who stood before the Council and declared, “If you don’t measure it, it’s as if it never happened.” The result is an unprecedented partnership between the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University (ISU), Iowa Testing Programs (ITP) and the Center for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) at the University of Iowa (UI) and University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) Center for Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR) consortium lead.
Today, an unparalleled annual compilation is delivered to the STEM Council early each new year profiling changes on more than eighteen metrics over the preceding year. For example, RISE at ISU probes the thousands of educators who scale Council programs to preK-12 children, assessing their perspectives on the impact of each offering on their students and themselves. At UI, the ITP serves up priceless comparisons of the performance and attitudes in STEM between STEM participants versus non-participants on the statewide assessment. UI’s CEA studies several STEM programs yielding information on long-term impact of the STEM Teacher Externships Program, post-secondary pathways of STEM BEST Program students, sustainability of STEM Scale-Up Programs, insights of equity focus groups and more. Finally, over at CSBR at UNI, a statewide random sample survey of adults’ attitudes and perceptions of STEM education provides valuable chronological trending, as does scale-up effect analysis. The CSBR aggregates a “vital stats” array of indicators ranging from ACT scores to AP enrollment rates, teacher STEM endorsements to college majors in STEM and more. Importantly the CSBR compiles annual reports across contributors to the singular annual documents posted here: https://iowastem.org/iowa-stem-evaluation
True to Dr. Lutz’ pronouncement, we know STEM is happening in Iowa because these essential partners measure it.