Students’ math skills have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, leading to an increased need for out-of-school STEM learning.
The latest NAEP results reveal the biggest drop in math performance in fourth- and eighth-grade students since the testing program began initial assessments in 1990. Because of this steep decline, there is increased awareness of the need for high-quality STEM learning supports, particularly outside of school, to help address learning loss.
Out-of-school programs can improve academic measures and teacher skills.
Students regularly participating in afterschool programs experience increases in academic performance and improve the likelihood of graduating from high school. Additionally, the math achievement gap between low‐ and high‐income students narrows when low‐income students attend afterschool programs. Lastly, teachers and community members often value out-of-school STEM programs for their impact beyond student outcomes and engagement, including their ability to enhance teachers’ professional development and skills.
There is a nationwide shortage of afterschool and summer workers, leading to reduced access for students.
COVID has exacerbated hiring challenges, leading to reduced program access and widespread closures affecting families across the country. Approximately 51 percent of afterschool providers report that they are extremely concerned about finding staff to hire or staffing shortages. Additionally, the decentralization of funding for out-of-school means that evidence-based practices are not consistently implemented, limiting the number of programs that meet the needs of students.
Parents want interactive and student-centered learning, but continue to struggle to find out-of-school options for their children.
According to a recent study, 52 percent of parents indicate they prefer to direct and curate their child’s education rather than rely on their local school system, but securing out-of-school programs can be a challenge for many. Between 2014 and 2020, 1.9 million students from low-income households left afterschool and summer programs, while only 450,000 students from higher-income households left during the same period. Low-income families stated that cost was the main barrier to participation. On the positive side, during this same time period, the number of afterschool programs offering technology and engineering learning opportunities rose from 30 to 39 percent.
Parents are prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes, but the lack of in-person out-of-school programming has led to reduced time for students to practice these skills.
Out-of-school settings are particularly well-suited for the promotion of SEL outcomes due to their greater flexibility. This is particularly true for high-quality STEM programs: students in these programs reported greater SEL growth versus those in lower-quality programs, and research shows a strong correlation between STEM and SEL outcomes. According to one survey, 83 percent of parents report that seeing their child happy is the most important child-centric quality driver for out-of-school programs, and 76 percent said the most important aspect of an out-of-school program’s environment is that it is fun. However, the decrease of in-person programming during COVID has made SEL outcomes more difficult to both realize and measure.
Children cannot be what they do not see.
Families are crucial for helping children build early math skills, which are a strong predictor of later academic success, but math confidence remains a challenge.
Math skills upon entering kindergarten are the best predictor of eighth grade performance regardless of race, gender, or SES, and children who consistently struggle with math are less likely to receive a high school diploma or attend college. Yet, over half of 18- to 34-year-olds regularly say they cannot do math and STEM anxiety has been shown to be highly transferable from parents to child. But these mindsets are malleable: Overdeck Family Foundation funded research that showed improving parents’ perception of their children’s math abilities can improve children’s math performance by as much as three months.
Advocating for increased access to high-quality afterschool opportunities for students nationwide.
Unlocking joy and confidence in math with fun, culturally-relevant online lessons.
Using summer to nurture students' interest in STEM and innovation.
Bringing engineering home, even for the youngest learners.
The Family Math Initiative
Working with families to increase children’s early math fluency and confidence.
Building a foundation for STEM proficiency through high school and beyond.
Strengthening students' STEM skills through interactive games and a partnership with the NBA.
Providing STEM enrichment that builds positive math attitudes and confidence.
Increase Out-of-School STEM Opportunities
Increase the quality, supply, and positive perception of joyful and rigorous out-of-school STEM programs.
Expand Family STEM
Increase availability of family STEM opportunities and environments that elevate the role of families in supporting children’s learning.
Explore Student Self-Directed STEM
Explore the ability of student self-directed STEM experiences to provide students more agency and opportunities to follow their STEM passions on their own and with peers.
What features and practices of out-of-school STEM programs and self-directed student STEM experiences have a significant impact on student engagement?
What practices and capacity-building efforts best equip an organization to plan and conduct rigorous studies that lead to increases in ESSA tier?
How can out-of-school time STEM providers address school- and district-wide needs?