The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education is a non- profit organization that works both nationally and internationally with governments, institutions of higher education, school districts and other educational entities to transform education, empower learners, and improve lives by advancing literacy and achievement in purpose driven science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Learn more…


21PSTEM pioneered an 18-step design process to create a fully integrated advanced STEM high school curriculum for the Egyptian Ministry of Education as part of a five-year $30M USAID project. The curriculum is “backward-designed” from ten “Grand Challenges” and utilizes related semester Capstone projects. Eleven new STEM high schools use the curriculum with 16 more new STEM schools planned.

Bosnia & Herzegovina:

21PSTEM are consultants to a USAID project to the government of Bosnia & Herzegovina to create a k-13 “Operational Teaching Curriculum” with a STEM emphasis to prepare their students for the Knowledge-Based Economy. (KBE)” 21PSTEM is using the same 18 step design process in collaboration with local university content experts and Save the Children.


21PSTEM led a collaboration of 70 organizations to take the first four steps to fundamentally rethink high schools in urban settings with support from the Barra Foundation Catalyst fund. Known as the City as Classroom STEAM Initiative, the goal is to develop a new fully integrated high school curriculum that blends arts and culture with STEM based on a renewed purpose and vision for 21st century high school education. See the Phase 1 Final Report

Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes (PARLO):

Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes (PARLO). 21PSTEM developed the PARLO assessment system to remove learning roadblocks caused by punitive grading practices, particularly when implementing problem-based and project-based curriculum. PARLO is based on years of research on formative assessment and cognitive developmental psychology. The heart of the PARLO process is to breakdown the curriculum to a small set of high value student learning outcomes (SLOs) that require “strategic thinking;” then, iteratively assess for student mastery of each SLO. Student grades are based on the percentage of SLOs where the student has reached proficiency rather than the total points awarded for every assignment divided by the total possible points, a practice which penalizes late learners.

Assessment Management System (AMS) – PARLO Tracker:

To help manage progressive evidence of student mastery of Student Learning Outcomes, Competencies, or similar learning benchmarks, 21PSTEM has developed a robust interactive online assessment management system (AMS) called the PARLO Tracker. The Tracker enables parents, students and administrators to monitor student progress toward mastery of strategic content. The Tracker AMS is extremely user friendly as it was based on years of field testing from two federally funded projects. The Tracker software is available to colleges, districts and schools at a nominal cost.

Tests of Concepts (TOC) in Science and Mathematics:

To test for conceptual development and chart learning progressions, 21PSTEM developed a process to create isomorphic assessment items of progressive difficulty based on decades of cognitive science research on typical misconceptions in science and mathematics and student data. For an example of these durable misconceptions see the Private Universe link.

Lab Practicals:

21PSTEM developed tasks and protocols for assessing student performance on laboratory based practical knowledge. These authentic assessments or “lab practicals” can be an important component of a mixed methods approach to gauging students STEM knowledge.

Assessing High School to College to Workforce Alignment:

Component 21PSTEM has developed strategies to better assess alignment between high school, college and the workforce. Three graphics with accompanying narratives outline the more obscure challenges of alignment.

PD on Cognitive Science Principles and Pedagogy:

21PSTEM led a team of cognitive scientists to create a series of professional development materials and videos on the principles of cognitive science for over 700 science teachers. The PD materials were part of a $10M project funded by the Institute of Education Science. These same materials and others are available to schools.

PD on Secondary Mathematics and Science text materials:

21PSTEM has provided professional development to nearly 4,000 secondary mathematics and science teachers in use of standards-based text materials including: Core Plus; Meaningful Math (formerly IMP); Connected Mathematics; Math in Context, Full-Option Science (FOSS), SEPUP, Earth Comm, and Chem Comm.

PD on Formative Assessment:

21PSTEM has designed and conducted scores of sessions on formative assessment from classroom techniques to deeper theory on cognitive development and learning progressions.

Master Teacher, Principals, STEM Supervisors:

We offer a range of consultative services based upon research on effective principals, Turnaround Schools, adult motivation theory and classroom evaluation. Our team will assist you in analyzing root cause factors and designing customized school improvement plans.

21PTEM has conducted both large scale and small scale research studies and program evaluations involving randomized controls trials, quasi-experimental studies and qualitative research. These include:

The Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia:

A nine year $14M design research project involving 13 colleges and universities and 45 school districts. The first and second goals were to improve STEM teacher education and science and math teaching in secondary schools. The third goals was to research the effectiveness of the interventions used in the first two goals.

Investigating Institutional Integration and Innovation in NSF’s I-cubed Activity:

A six year mixed methods study of STEM educational integration in six college and universities across the U.S

The 21st Century Center for Research and Development in Cognition and Science Instruction:

A six year, $10M, large scale, randomized control trial involving 2 states, 4 cities 7 school districts, 180 schools, 740 middle school science teacher and over 30,000 students to test the efficacy of infusing cognitive science principles into two different science curriculum.

Instability in Education Systems, Randomized Controlled Trials, and Children’s Achievement (PRIME):

A four year study to systematically capture the number of teachers who are leaving a teaching assignment both within a school year and across school years to gauge the feasibility of conducting large scale multiyear interventions in schools, especially in urban districts.

Arkansas Teacher Mobility Study:
Spurring Innovation through Advanced Data Visualization Tools: Exploring How to Dynamically Identify and Connect Regional STEM Assets


bullet 360 Thinking

We view of all these projects and studies as part of a comprehensive solution to improve education. When these projects and studies are interrelated synergies are created that enhances the overall results. Our staff, consultants and institutional partners represent a diverse mix of specialized talent and school and academic experience to yield a 360 degree view of the problem of providing quality education. When 21PSTEM is involved in a project, a whole team is involved in front and behind the scenes.

 bullet Keystone Graduation Initiative

Beginning in 2016-17, all Pennsylvania high school students will be required to be proficient in three “Keystone Exams” to graduate high school: Algebra1, Biology and Literature.*

21PSTEM has developed a four component suite of interventions in assessment, curriculum, instruction and supervision to assist districts in getting more of their students to score proficient on the Keystones

To learn more contact F. Joseph Merlino at

(*exceptions for special education students and those students who submit projects after failing the exams)

bullet The City as Classroom:

A New Vision of Public Urban High Schools for the Twenty-first Century

Phase 1 Report

bullet 21PSTEM Leads New Urban Initiative

classroom observation 5 The New Urban STEAM Initiative is the first of its kind in the nation

bullet Three new STEM Schools to be Opened in Egypt.

5-31 cairo press release pictureAfter the successful creation of the Six October and Maadi STEM Schools, 21PSTEM will be helping create three more STEM schools in Egypt.

bullet Three students from Maadi STEM School Awarded in Global Competition.

Maadi Girls press releaseStudents From the Maadi school in Egypt (whose creation was assisted by 21PSTEM) won a global award in science.