National Education Foundation's STEM Program Puts Challenged Somerton School District on Track to Be the Best in Arizona

Somerton students succeeding with NEF's STEM Academy!

​​Somerton School District, on the Mexican border in Arizona, with a low-income student body, has made tremendous strides in academic achievement with the help of the STEM Academy program of the National Education Foundation (NEF).

According to Dr. Laura Noel, Superintendent, the goal is to be the highest achieving district in Arizona. Recent data shows Somerton is well on its way to meeting this impressive goal.

With 3,000 students distributed across five schools, Somerton is exceeding expectations through a focus on efficiency, by using the STEM Academy program of the NEF, the national non-profit leader in STEM education. NEF has provided an 80% matching grant for the implementation of its Total STEM System Solution (TSSS), the most cost-effective STEM system solution in the U.S.

TSSS consists of four modules – 1) Academic individualized learning mapped to state standards, with 2) incentives for students, teachers and parents, that advances a student one grade level in a subject like math in 25-35 learning hours, 3) Hands-on Robotics, a STEM design contest by NEF’s academy partner SUNY (State University of New York), and 4) STEM career prep programs in CyberSecurity, AI, Project Management and 9 other high-demand job areas.

The Somerton program is part of two national NEF STEM initiatives recently announced by Dr. Appu Kuttan, Chairman of NEF, namely, the STEM Vision for America to prepare one million students for college and the STEM workforce, and STEM Vision for American Teachers to prepare one million teachers in using technology and business skills better and more effectively in the classroom. NEF provides 80% to 95% grant for both programs.

Dr. Kuttan, a philanthropist, global STEM expert and advisor to U.S. and global leaders, states that “The U.S. is outsourcing a million STEM-related jobs, and our students are ranked globally in the bottom 20% in math. We have a serious global STEM challenge. The two NEF initiatives are designed to meet that challenge, especially with a focus on the disadvantaged school districts/schools with 35% or more students on Free or Reduced cost meals.” Any such school can apply at any time for the NEF grants at Anna Fermanis, Director of Instruction and STEM Academy Director, says, “The District’s 3rd through 8th graders have benefited significantly from NEF’s SuccessMaker program.”

The Somerton School District has been successfully implementing the NEF STEM Academy program since the 2017-18 school year, with buy-in from the teachers, who appreciate the fact that all NEF courses are mapped to the state standards. The results have been phenomenal, with most students completing a full year’s curriculum in half to three-quarters of the time. Dr. Noel explains, “Differentiated teaching is critical for successfully teaching the highest and lowest achievers. The NEF STEM Academy allows our quality teachers to do this better and with less effort.”

Parents also benefited from using SuccessMaker at home with their children. Perhaps the biggest advance in differentiated education came from NEF’s proven incentive program for students, teachers, and parents.

Teachers have found the summer STEM program, specifically the Robotics provided by NEF, rewarding on multiple levels. This year Somerton had two teams bring back trophies from local and state STEM contests.

Source: National Education Foundation

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