Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem Evaluation

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Philadelphia Education Fund





Organization Overview:

Founded in 1985, Philadelphia Education Fund's mission is to create equitable access to opportunities for students, by providing resources and expertise that build paths to college and career success. In Philadelphia, where one in four residents lives in poverty, and just two in three students graduate from high school (83% nationally), the Philadelphia Education sees education as the key to lifting low-income, under-resourced youth out of poverty and serves 1,200 K-12 teachers and 30,000 students annually.

Through our direct services and extensive collaborations, the Philadelphia Education Fund is at the forefront of identifying and addressing education needs. One growing need is improving students’ STEM skills and achievement, which plays a key role in allowing low-income youth to step out of generational poverty. In response to this need, the Philadelphia Education Fund launched our McKinney Center for STEM Education in 2017. We assisted the School District of Philadelphia in designing its K-12 STEM curriculum frameworks; we recruit and train STEM professionals to provide career guidance to high school students; we are developing clean energy curricula with School District, government, industry and nonprofit partners; and we offer professional development to improve the STEM teaching skills of local educators.

Project Name:

Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem Evaluation
Project Type: 
Program Evaluation

Project Overview:

The Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem and Philadelphia STEM Equity Collective are both designed to provide equitable access to STEM education, resources, and career pathways. As it embarks on its 10-year strategy, PSEC is currently recruiting diverse members, hosting quarterly city-wide meetings, and conducting stakeholder interviews and focus groups. The Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem complements PSEC’s long-range goals by working on immediate projects and activities. The Ecosystem’s mission states, “By increasing collaboration, identifying gaps in resources, and enhancing the quality of STEM education, the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem promotes just and equitable access to STEM opportunities for all children and youth.” Through its 5 Workgroups, the PSE is tackling STEM-related issues in the areas of 1) Computer Science, 2) Education for Sustainability, 3) Professional Development; 4) Sport through STEM, and 5) Workforce Development.

To date, however, we have not precisely identified the Ecosystem’s target audience; successfully ascertained the impact of our STEM Ecosystem on underserved youth; used this data to improve our efforts; or 4) utilized these findings to inform policy.

Project Description: The Philadelphia Education Fund and Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem seek a Fels student to help 1) identify and define our target,  underserved student populations; 2) develop a research project to measure the impact of the Ecosystem on equitable STEM access; and 3) use this data to enhance our efforts to reach, engage, and enrich these audiences.

The Fellow will address these questions through the activities detailed below:

1. Identify Audience: Our student will do a deep dive into this issue, to truly define what we mean by these terms, who we are targeting, and how and why we have identified these populations.
2. Measure Impact: Our student will then create a mechanism through which to measure the impact of our Ecosystem on equitable STEM access and impact. The Fellow will have a significant pool of resources to work with and learn from.
3. Apply Data: Lastly, our student will work with the Ecosystem leadership and Steering Committee to apply these findings to improving STEM access and utilization – in both practice and policy.


The Fels student will produce

1) a concise literature review, with which to contextualize the study;

2) customized assessment instruments for implementing this evaluation;

3) an analysis of the downloaded data; and

4) a final paper summarizing the project, disseminated to professional colleagues, and appropriate for publication.

Through this work, he/she have many opportunities to acquire timely content knowledge and develop important skillsets; and to interact professionally with staff from government offices and nonprofits; and to engage with local, regional, and national STEM, education, and social justice individuals and organizations.  Moreover, he/she will be immersed in cutting edge program design, empirical research, and policy reform. Finally, the PEF and McKinney Center team have many years of experience supervising both experienced and entry-level staff; adult volunteers; undergraduate, graduate, and high school students; and work-study students and interns. We enjoy supervision and mentoring, and take both very seriously.

Project Timeline: The Fels timeline, of January through August of 2021, works well for this project.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326