The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education (21PSTEM) is an independent, nonprofit research and action organization dedicated to identifying and implementing ways to transform education to empower learners and improve lives. By working with a network of nearly 40 collegiate, nonprofit and for-profit partners, 21PSTEM develops and manages both large and small scale projects where diverse and varied expertise can be utilized in a collaborative environment to maximize program effectiveness and efficacy.
An aerospace engineer once wrote that of the two, teaching was harder than rocket science. If this is true, then reforming education is harder than landing on the moon. After all, we have done the latter, 46 years ago, but much of the education reform launched during this same period has rarely made it into orbit.
Still, as most any scientist, engineer, artist or performer will tell you, there is much to be learned from failure, and education reform is no exception. This makes the staff at 21PSTEM a very learned bunch as they have witnessed many initially highly touted reform practices and policies fail. Their deep and varied experience in schools and education reform efforts spans 20- 50 years and has allowed them to learn from these failures and apply new approaches to improve instruction and the systems that support it. 21PSTEM staff also has a broad range of relevant experience: from Ph.D.-level qualitative and quantitative researchers; to former superintendents, curriculum directors, principals and teachers; to computer programmers and project operations people.
If the diverse staff at 21PSTEM has studied educational failure from all angles, they have also witnessed and facilitated plenty of education’s successes through a variety of research and development projects. Not just the success that comes from a test score, but success that comes: when a child grows intellectually, emotionally and morally; when a teacher masters a challenging practice; or a whole system adopts and sustains a reform. You know it when you see it. There is immense satisfaction to be had in empowering learners and improving lives. It is these experiences of success, and wanting to see more of it, that motivates us here at 21PSTEM and fulfills our core purpose as an organization.
We take “quality education for all” personally. We work to make sure that everyone has it. We analyze an educational problem from all angles, studying what has been tried and conceiving what has not been done or what can be done better. We challenge conventional assumptions about curriculum organization, learning environments, instructional methods, grading practices, professional development, and teacher and administrative leadership and evaluation. We leave no assumption unexamined and we work together to gain a 360 degree view of the problem.
Thus, one dimension of 21PSTEM is as a research organization – a think tank funded by merit-reviewed federal and foundation grants producing cutting edge ideas applicable to research and practice. But we are also a “doing” organization. We develop and implement large-scale, innovative education projects. We have a superb group of doers. However, we do not do it alone. Our middle name is “Partnership.” We have worked on projects with nearly 40 different universities, non-profit, and for-profit partners, as well as dozens of individual consultants. These extraordinary sets of partners have allowed us to take on projects that no one partner could have done on their own as our history will attest.
To do this, 21PSTEM’s organization structure is design to be “flat” and agile so that it can respond quickly to opportunities by assembling the right mix of partners for the project at hand. 21PSTEM has all of the accounting and fiscal management policies in place to operate large scale projects with multiple sub-grantees. 21PSTEM’s business operations are designed specifically around handling government education related grants. Even so, we welcome the opportunities to work with individual schools and teachers to transform education for their students. We invite you to peruse our site and contact any one of us to discuss your ideas for transforming education to empower learners and improve lives.