Citizen Schools Secures Match Funding for U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation GrantJanuary 8, 2013 by Sally Farhat Kassab
Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to lengthen the school day for children in low-income communities, announced that the organization has secured match funding that will guarantee a nearly $3 million “Investing in Innovation”(i3) award from the U.S. Department of Education.
This comes as part of the third round of the federal i3 competition, which will award funding to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement. Twenty potential grantees were announced in November and required to secure matching funds in order to receive federal funding.
Citizen Schools’ proposal, called Closing Inspiration and Achievement Gaps in STEM with Volunteer-Led Apprenticeships, describes the organization’s plan to recruit, train, and support thousands of volunteers to lead apprenticeships that build students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This 3.5-year project, the cornerstone of Citizen Schools’ Catalyst initiative, will hone a promising innovation with the potential to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who are prepared for advanced education and careers in science and technology fields.
Citizen Schools submitted a proposal in the “Development” category. Rigorously trained peer reviewers vetted more than 650 applications in the Development category and selected Citizen Schools among only 12 finalists, granting the application the highest score among STEM-focused projects. Development grants provide up to $3 million to support promising projects with high potential for impact on student achievement. Development grantees must secure private matching funds equivalent to at least 15 percent of their federal award.
Today, Citizen Schools announced that the following funders have signed on to invest a total of $775,000 in the project and secure the federal funding:
- Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
- Finnegan Family Foundation
- S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
- AT&T Foundation
- Carnegie Corporation of New York
(Please note: Although the investments listed above have secured $3 million in federal funding, Citizen Schools will continue to invite additional investors to sign on as i3 match funders in order to fully implement the organization’s i3 project.)
Since 1995, Citizen Schools has brought over 20,000 volunteers from businesses and community organizations into middle schools nationwide. Volunteers lead apprenticeships where they work under the supervision of Citizen Schools staff to teach students about a wide variety of professions, with a growing focus on professions in the STEM fields. Students work with volunteers on hands-on projects, such as building solar cars and robots, programming computers and Android applications, and designing video games.
“There is a growing class-based achievement gap in education and STEM education specifically, and it is driven by an opportunity chasm between the authentic learning experiences of lower and upper income students,” said Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools. “At the same time, millions of scientists and engineers are sitting on the sidelines, totally uninvolved in the lives of children but capable of hosting interns, co-teaching classes, and teaching hands-on apprenticeships in the extended day hours. This i3 grant will enable Citizen Schools to prove that addressing the opportunity chasm in STEM — by providing lower income children with multiple chances to make cool things with successful STEM professionals — is the surest way to eliminate the achievement gap.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for professionals in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math is projected to dramatically outpace the supply over the coming decades, with over two million anticipated STEM job openings by 2018 and a serious shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them. At the same time, a Lemelson-MIT survey found that a majority of teenagers may be discouraged from pursuing STEM careers because they do not know anyone who works in these fields and they do not understand what people in these fields do. The problem is particularly acute for populations that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields. While earning a STEM degree is one important milestone in pursuing a STEM career, just 2.2 percent of Hispanics and Latinos, 2.7 percent of African Americans, and 3.3 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives have earned a first university degree in the natural sciences or engineering by age 24.
There are fewer than 250,000 math and science teachers in the United States. The population of working scientists and engineers is twenty times larger – five and a half million people with content expertise and authentic knowledge of STEM career pathways, but generally no connection to the low-income children who need exactly what they have to offer. Through Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships, students work hand-in-hand with those professionals on meaningful projects. In a recent student survey, 80 percent of middle school students taking Citizen Schools apprenticeships with Google expressed interest in pursuing a STEM college major or career. This compares with data from ACT, showing only one-third of 8th graders nationally are interested in STEM majors and careers.
“Cognizant is proud to support Citizen Schools’ i3 grant proposal, a program that shares our commitment to increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups who are excited about advanced education and careers in STEM disciplines,” said Mark Greenlaw, Vice President of Sustainability and Educational Affairs at Cognizant, and a member of Citizen Schools National STEM Advisory Council. “We strongly believe that STEM professionals can play an important role in sparking a child’s interest in STEM through mentoring and teaching hands-on apprenticeships.”