Examines a STEM certificate initiative spanning 10 colleges around the country and funded by a Department of Labor (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant.
“Acting as the lead agency for the National STEM Consortium (NSC), Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) engaged [the authors] to provide an independent program and impact evaluation of the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL)-funded STEM certificate initiative. This report is comprehensive and covers the findings from all 4 years of the grant” (p. 3). “Programs were designed for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)-eligible workers, but are also accessible to other unemployed and underemployed individuals in each college’s service area.” (p.6).

The 4 years of the mixed method evaluation included a variety of data collection activities, including annual interviews with NSC members, advisory board members, employer partners, workforce agency partners, and current and past NSC students; and student questionnaires. Program documents were also reviewed, as well as extant student data. Data analyses consisted of qualitative (using a preordinate scheme) and quantitative (descriptive statistics) methods. Findings generated from the analyses provide the basis for conclusions and recommendations for program improvement throughout the project. The final year’s evaluation activities included project staff interviews, employer interviews, a student questionnaire, document review, and analysis of extant student data” (p.3)

“The final year’s evaluation was driven by the following questions directed at outcomes for both students and NSC colleges themselves, as well as scale up opportunities for further work:
1.    What were the outcomes in terms of the students’ attainment of certifications, certificates, diplomas, or other recognized credentials as a result of the program?
2.    What were the outcomes in terms of student retention rates (i.e., students who completed or were still in a program at time of measurement) for TAA-eligible workers and other adults participating in the program?
3.    What impact did the NSC programs have on participants’ employment outcomes?
4.    What impact did the NSC program components have on consortium colleges in terms of program and course offerings, student enrollment, and college processes?
5.    What scale up opportunities exist for consortium colleges?
6.    What is the promise of components of the NSC model on community college education?” (p.6-7).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“High-level evaluation findings for the NSC grant project include the following: • Project staff and the management team successfully completed all grant strategies and activities outlined in their work plan. • Throughout the grant period, the management team provided necessary policy and fiscal guidance, as well as frequent and useful communication to the project coordinators, making for a well-managed grant. • Technical track curricula were completed as a collaborative effort and are publicly available online. • STEM Bridge has been popular outside of the NSC, with thousands of users from non-NSC colleges, high schools, and middles schools. • The NSC grant has helped to establish new relationships between the colleges and local and regional employers, as well as to strengthen existing relationships. • The NSC education model, which included block scheduling, cohort enrollment, compressed classroom time, employer linkages, hybrid delivery, one-on-one advising with a navigator, and contextualized remediation and refreshers through STEM Bridge, appears to have fostered student success in terms of retention and completion. • Enrollment targets were met, while the number of completions was slightly lower than the target. • NSC female participants were less likely than male participants to complete their technical track within the expected timeframe. • NSC students who completed their programs have been successful in finding relevant employment. • The staff involved with the NSC have created curricula and implemented an educational model that advances student success; however, the future of the consortium is not clear. Informal relationships will likely continue, but a formal structure has not been established” (p.3). The authors make the following recommendations for others interested in the project’s community college collaboration: • “Focus on what model aspects work best in each institution” • “Continue to collect data and analyze the effectiveness of the model’s components” • “Identify leaders who will maintain NSC curriculum in the absence of a solid partnership” • “Pursue additional grant funding” (p.41). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)