STEM Scale-Up evaluation informs STEM Council

STEM Scale-Up evaluation reveals gains in student awareness, interest and achievement in STEM.

While the 2014-2015 implementation of STEM Scale-Up Programs winds down, evaluators are winding up to capture effects across a thousand educators and one-hundred thousand youth.

Dr. Erin Heiden, senior research scientist with the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa, coordinates the STEM Scale-Up program evaluation that is in collaboration with the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University and Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa.

Between the three state university evaluation centers, each takes on one portion of the three-part assessment that captures the STEM Council priorities of raising interest, raising awareness and raising achievement in STEM. The first task—the teacher/leader survey—focuses on how an educator implemented the Scale-Up program in a classroom or informal setting, increasing the awareness of STEM. The other two tasks focus on students, using Iowa Testing Assessment scores in mathematics and science to gauge achievement and a student questionnaire to measure for increased interest in STEM education or careers.

“By tracking student participation in Scale-Up Programs, it may show differences in mathematics and science achievement scores over time, but that’s not something that you’re going to see on a year-to-year basis,” Heiden said. “This component of the evaluation is based on the Council’s priority to increase mathematics and science achievement among Iowa students."

The evaluators ask that educators complete all three tasks once the Scale-Up program has ended. However, some educators use the programs all year long, so the team sees more tasks completed in between March and May. Then, within four to six weeks after the assessment tasks are due, a small team of staff from each university devotes a portion of their time to work on the report alongside a handful of student research assistants that help collect, enter, track and analyze the data for the annual Iowa STEM Monitoring report.

But, every year is different. Heiden said the biggest challenge to overcome is annually reviewing and monitoring the three tasks to ensure they still capture the variety of Scale-Up programming added to the menu each year and the relevant data needed despite the different offerings and methods of implementation per program.

“On a personal level, it’s always fun to hear the educators’ success stories as I’m in the depths of crunching numbers,” Heiden said. “Even after answering questions from an educator that has some sort of technical difficulty with one of the tasks or they’re wondering how to proceed, almost all of them end the e-mail or telephone call with gratefulness for the Scale-Up program and how they and their students have enjoyed the program.”

This year’s monitoring report will come out in early August. In the meantime, take a look at last year’s Iowa STEM monitoring report at