Behind the Curtain: Scale-Up in Iowa STEM

Cowles Montessori Elemntary School students expirement with STEM Scale-Up programs
Elementary students at Cowles Montessori School are representative of more than 100,000 students the STEM Scale-Up programs reach every year.

Professionals, the saying goes, make the difficult look easy. The people behind the scenes, bringing top-notch STEM to thousands of educators and 10 times more youth across Iowa, navigate many potholes in the process. To the casual observer, recipients of the program and watchers from other states, it’s a smooth ride, but here is a glimpse “behind the curtain” as homage to the professionals who make the signature STEM Scale-Up initiative work.

Seventeen Iowans volunteered to filter would-be Scale-Up programs, 14 of whom endured training sessions through November to score proposals over the winter holiday season. Their investment of many hours of work winnowed the pool from 33 proposals to four recommended to the Council’s executive committee for a vote.

By January, Iowa’s regional managers, working with the four new providers for 2015-16 alongside the renewed 10 from 2014-15, opened up marketing, recruitment and promotion season to Iowa’s educators. Innumerable idiosyncrasies, budget nuances and capacity issues across the 14 Scale-Up partners challenged the full suite of skills of the STEM Network manager team. Each is on a full-court press through March 9’s application deadline to drum up interest.

Come spring break, the regional board members will weigh hundreds of applications by need, geography and local demand. By April, contracts will bind six regional institutions to 14 program providers for the delivery of excellent curriculum, materials and professional development to more than 2,000 teachers and 100,000 of Iowa’s most deserving youngsters during the 2015-16 school year.

On the heels of countless trainings, classroom visits, material shipments, invoices, reports and troubleshooting on the part of both programmers and managers, the evaluation consortium will swoop in to measure the impact of all the activity. The stage will then be set for a new-and-improved STEM Scale-Up season for 2016-17. For more about the Scale-up program, go to http://www.iowastem.gov/2015-16Program-Menu.

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