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Many reports, including those from the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, have connected STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to continued economic growth in the United States. However, employers across many STEM-related industries have observed and reported to research entities such as The Brookings Institute™ that many applicants do not possess the skills needed to succeed.
To address this, the Committee on K-12 Science Education Standards recommends implementing standards-based education as an important step to preparing students. Just as common standards have been adopted for math and English/Language Arts (ELA), science education also needs the same but it’s important to start programming early. Research shows that by the time students reach fourth grade, one third have lost an interest in science. By eighth grade, almost 50% have lost interest or deemed it irrelevant to their education or future plans.
Lastly, a study funded by the Carnegie Corporation showed that race, culture, ethnicity, language, and economic status continue to be linked to an on-going achievement gap1. Out-of-school time (OST) programs help address this by providing learning and enrichment opportunities that are not limited by the school day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not only do they support academic achievement, OST programs also provide youths with safety, supervision, and may play a role in reducing health disparities2.
By broadening the learning environment to include time in and out of the classroom, the Cigna Foundation will help K-8 students excel in language, literacy, and STEM subjects. Proficiency in these subjects will help students succeed, position themselves well for their future educational and job plans, and ultimately contribute to the overall economy.
The Cigna Foundation seeks to fund in-class programs that:
- Adopt language, literacy, and STEM-related standards and assessments
- Utilize data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform how to improve instruction
In addition, OST programs that:
- Are scheduled before and/or after school, over the weekend, and/or during the summer months or other OST, and are primarily focused on language, literacy, and STEM subjects
- Employ certified teachers to provide academic instruction
- Follow these or similar schedules:
- School Year
- Three (3) to five (5) days per week for about three (3) hours per day; and
- Provide 45 to 90 minutes of academic instruction in addition to recreational and enrichment activities with snacks provided, as well as meals when appropriate (i.e., breakfast)
- Summer or other OST equivalent (i.e., trimester schedule)
- Four (4) to five (5) days per week for four (4) to six (6) weeks
- Either half-day or full-day programming
- 60 to 120 minutes per subject
- School Year
1 Diversity Within Unity, https://education.uw.edu/sites/default/files/cme/docs/pdf/DiversityUnity.pdf, accessed May 2021
2 Out of School Time, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/ost.htm