The Arkansas Math and Science Coalition was established in 1987 as a result of a $10,000 grant awarded to Henderson State University from the National Alliance of State and Math Science Coalitions, with the purpose to serve STEM-focused education from Pre-K to university levels.
In 1993, the National Science Foundation awarded a $10M grant to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, with which funding was used to benefit the efforts of the Arkansas Math and Science Coalition. The organization consisted of collaborative networks led through the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, with the intention to further STEM education through professional development opportunities for educators and administrators.
In addition, five STEM Centers were established at the following universities and education cooperatives throughout Arkansas:
- Arkansas State University (Jonesboro)
- Henderson State University (Arkadelphia)
- University of Arkansas (Pine Bluff)
- University of Central Arkansas (Conway)
- Ozarks Unlimited Resource Educational Service Cooperative (Harrison) — later replaced with the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville)
The funds were used to develop long-term professional development via the Science Crusade, the Math Crusade, and the K-4 Math, Science, and Literacy Crusade.
In ten years, efforts were so successful that demand increased for the following, additional STEM-focused professional development by 2003:
- Arkansas State University (Forrest City)
- Arkansas Tech University (Russellville)
- Harding University (Searcy)
- Southern Arkansas University (Magnolia)
- University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
- University of Arkansas at Monticello
- University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Through joint funding between the National Science Foundation, an NSF EPSCoR grant, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant, each of the centers expanded staff and hired one director, one mathematics specialist, and one science specialist. Each STEM Center served as a professional development hub for STEM-focused K-12 education and higher education.
The work of the STEM centers had a profound effect on the quality of professional development and continuing education for STEM educators. As the success of the STEM Centers grew, so did the interest and participation of local governments, businesses, and community leaders. STEM-focused graduates became a constant resource of talent and workforce development. The University STEM Centers ensured that Arkansas students continually had STEM-focused education and career opportunities, and that Arkansas business economy benefited from the abundant talent of the Arkansas graduates. A need developed for the effort to maintain uniform coordination and expand the vision to support STEM education.
The STEM Center Director positions were always funded by the university since 1992. Each individual university provided funds for the salary technology needs of the STEM Center, access to scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, STEM educational research, classrooms as needed, and access to science kits and equipment, mathematics manipulatives including professional development, and expertise by the center director.
In 2006, the grants from the federal government expired. So, The Arkansas legislature passed Act 39 of the 1st Extraordinary Session in 2006 that provided funding to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to continue the science specialist positions at the 12 STEM Centers for one year. In July 2007, the ADE began funding the mathematics and science specialists’ positions at each STEM Center.
The Arkansas Network of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Centers served to enrich the knowledge and teaching practices of teachers in STEM by linking institutions of higher education to K-12 public schools, educational service cooperatives, and businesses, and providing services and resources for teachers, administrators, and students in 2008. The Centers worked to keep the public informed and offer implementation assistance as it relates to trends in education.
The objectives of the STEM Centers are the following:
- Provide STEM professional development opportunities for classroom teachers, administrators, and other educators.
- Strengthen the STEM skills and preparation of pre-service teachers.
- Increase collaboration between the Schools of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Education at institutions of higher education.
- Contribute to improving student achievement in mathematics and science.
- Assist schools in curriculum, instruction, and assessment improvements and reform.
- Foster partnerships with school districts in order to provide technical assistance.
- Promote collaboration and coordination of activities with the Educational Service Cooperatives.
- Support high quality mathematics and science education in the state.
- Coordinate with the Arkansas department of Education in school improvement efforts.
- Serve as resources for mathematics, science, and technology materials.
The STEM Centers “provide mathematics and science professional development, and serve as university outreach sites to surrounding school districts to bridge mathematics and science human, material, and fiscal resources K-20.” The math and science specialists also provide professional development and support for pre-service teachers. Resources such as curriculum, activity guides/books, and science lab equipment are free to check out for extended periods.
In 2010, the Arkansas STEM Coalition was established, and the IRS granted the Arkansas STEM Coalition non-profit status. A 30-member group of business representatives formed the Board of Directors with key committees to assist the newly formed organization: Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Nominating, Leadership, and Governance Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, the Fund Development Committee, the Marketing & Communications Committee, the Bylaws & Policies Committee, the STEM Programs & Services Committee, the Fund Development – Special Events Committee, and the Arkansas STEM Ecosystem STEM Committee.
Today, the Arkansas STEM Coalition includes 12 STEM Centers as well as business, government, and community representation. Business, education, government, and community leaders throughout the state work in support of STEM-education and to expand the Arkansas economy through higher-paying, STEM-focused professions.
We offer signature STEM programs designed to engage Arkansas students in STEM-focused career pathways. We are a proud partner of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice, an international community of 89-STEM ecosystems. We support Girls Who Code, and we are a proud partner of the Arkansas State License Plate Program. Proceeds from this program purchase and support educational science equipment for students and classroom teachers, grades 3-6.