STEM Innovation Lab, enhancing student success in STEM education through sustainable and scalable models

STEM Innovation Lab, enhancing student success in STEM education through sustainable and scalable models

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The STEM Innovation Lab is a physical and online space where teachers and students collaborate and problem solve, test ideas, establish effective school, community, and business partnerships, assess practices, explore new curriculum and develop effective professional practices. We will expand a collaborative website for STEM professional development focused on enhanced models of sustainable school-community-business partnerships to focus and motivate students’ college and career readiness, and enhance teacher professional skills through technology integration. The result will be enhanced curriculum, teachers and students that have access to hands on STEM learning experiences through innovative partnerships and students who are better prepared for STEM postsecondary education and careers.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In an effort to ensure that students in the region succeed CPS and KnowledgeWorks joined education, business, nonprofit, and civic organizations from Cincinnati to launch a region-wide community effort called Strive. The leaders are united in one belief - that this region can develop the best educational PK-12 system in the world. The partners are committed to building a framework for a model education system. The 2010 Census reported that 296,943 people resided in Cincinnati, a decrease of 10% since 2000. 48% of the population is Caucasian and 47% is Black. About 22% of the population is below the poverty line. CPS has 33,748 K-12 grade students 69% of the total student population is Black. Our two platform schools where this project was tested are Hughes STEM High School where 86% of the student population are Black, 28% have special needs and 84% participate on FRL. Demographics at Taft are similar with 89% Black, 18% with special needs and 92% on FRL. The need for a regional framework of partnership is mirrored in our experiences establishing two STEM-focus schools. The transformative power of effective partnerships is embedded in the evidence-based best practices that are emerging from Hughes and Taft. Schools, teachers, and families in these schools have piloted effective engagement with community and business partners who are actively participating at the school site. The problem-based STEM curriculum co-developed by the school and the partners is experienced onsite in the school and in industry research labs, corporate headquarters, hospitals and other locations.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Combining the strengths of business, non-profits, educators, and parents, the Lab will be a model for others in bringing achievable ideas to realization and a force in meeting the challenge of global competition. The Lab was created and tested in a school and a district that has high levels of poverty and minority students and will be expanded to the state and national level. The Lab expansion and dissemination of best practices will involve teachers and college faculty in collaborative development and sharing of STEM curriculum and best practices for establishing sustainable STEM partnerships. It will provide an accessible space where we capture and disseminate our best work in STEM education, while creating natural extensions between the work of community and business partners, university faculty and STEM teachers, providing the opportunity to significantly improve context-based STEM teaching. The Lab will provide access to enhanced communication capability including live video and audio, online sessions and interactive STEM curriculum, and professional development modules on developing and sustaining effective school-community-business partnerships. Foundational to these efforts is our ongoing partnership with Cincinnati Parents for Public Schools and our Community Learning Centers to fully engage the whole family in the importance and relevance of 21st Century Learning Skills anchored in the student experiences at home, school, community, and partner learning sites.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Lab is a partnership between UC, CPS, Ohio STEM Learning Network, and Strive designed to drive scalable and sustainable STEM curriculum improvement and professional development that will: Enhance STEM access, quality and impact on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment and drive a new STEM Development model shared by long term partners working on innovative ways to improve STEM teaching and learning. Key curricula and model best practices in identifying, growing and sustaining partnerships will be shared and include: STEM content, Project-Based Learning, Performance-Based Assessments, Social-Emotional Learning, 21st Century Skills for Learning, forming and sustaining strategic STEM partnerships, and teacher and partner developed joint strategies for STEM Innovation in urban core communities. The Lab will: Develop and Implement innovative programs in partnerships designed to increase student access and learning in STEM and increase the pipeline of students successfully pursuing postsecondary study in STEM; Build Collaborative Networks with partners in local, state and national communities to improve STEM education and opportunities; Prepare Teachers through innovative STEM professional development so all teachers are empowered by knowledge and experiences that enable them to become STEM curricular leaders; Disseminate knowledge and resources from STEM education to PK20 stakeholders in order to provide quality 21st century skills and best practices; Engage in Collaborative Research on innovations in STEM learning and teacher practice, including cutting-edge curricula.
About You
Cincinnati Public Schools – Hughes STEM High School & Innovation Laboratory
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Cincinnati Public Schools – Hughes STEM High School & Innovation Laboratory

Organization Phone

(513) 254-6796 (Cell); (513) 363-7400 (School)

Organization Address

2515 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219

Organization Country

, OH, Hamilton County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, OH, Hamilton County

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Ms. Wright, co-founder and STEM Program Facilitator at Hughes STEM High School, is accountable for communicating with partnering organizations, soliciting feedback from stakeholders during all phases of project implementation and ensuring that all project components are aligned and support standards-based education. Kathy is also the Division Director of Multicultural Equity for the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) and is the Chair of the premiere professional NSTA journal "The Science Teacher" advisory board. She is a master teacher with Minorities in Mathematics, Science and Engineering and works with partners to bring extended learning opportunities in the STEM areas to students throughout the region. Ms. Wright has a B.S. in Biology, and both a B.S. and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education. The following YouTube Video captures a testimonial on the power of innovative partnerships in urban school settings delivered at the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education’ s 2010 Day on the Hill:


Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The Innovation Lab is organized to function as an open research community. The school and the partners are committed to student and teacher achievement goals that are evidenced-based, data driven, scalable, and replicable. The partners assisted in the implementation of a continuous improvement plan, a data road map and timeline. Key assessment/ evaluation partnerships include the annual “Strive Report Card” to the community, and the professional evaluation staff of the UC Evaluation Services Center, and the NSF-funded evaluation of the OSLN Platform Schools being conducted by the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Math and Science Education. The CPS Office of Institutional Research is maintaining comprehensive student and achievement data profiles for the STEM-focused schools and is piloting data collection on the involvement of all partner organizations from the community, industry, and higher education Data and evaluation from all of these sources is shared with teachers, staff, and parents so that we embrace an evidence-based model of innovation and change for all of our stakeholders. Our measures of student and teacher success include: 1) increasing academic outcomes for students in urban schools; 2) increasing the number of traditionally underrepresented students including minorities, individuals with disabilities and females students in preparation for postsecondary study in STEM disciplines and related career; and 3) increasing the opportunities for innovative and high quality professional development for teachers and other educators of STEM subjects.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

By expanding the reach of the Innovation Lab and involving more STEM professionals and youth in its development we believe that the way that STEM is taught can be fundamentally changed from learning from textbooks to learning by doing. By providing a collaborative space for the development of STEM curriculum and best practices in teaching, especially for disadvantaged students, we want to embed it into the PK-20 DNA of the nation with clarity of purpose and an aligned catalog of programs and services. We want teachers to believe that all students can learn and all students to believe that they can succeed in STEM careers that match their interests and skills. We will do this by reaching out to schools and universities with a focus on districts serving low income and minority populations.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Taking a project to scale always creates problems. Creating the capacity to oversee the amount of data that we anticipate (and hope) will be entered on the site will require oversight and screening. Reaching out to potential partners will require time and resources. We have been fortunate to have the enthusiastic participation of STRIVE, CPS and OSLN as the program was developed. STRIVE, OSLN and UC have committed to provide ongoing support as the project grows. This depth of support will provide support to overcome barriers and attract new partners as the project grows, bringing more resources to overcome barriers.

Tell us about your partnerships

Cincinnati Public Schools is moving forward to raise student achievement. CPS is Ohio's third largest, serving 34,600 K-12 students. It is the testing site for the Lab.

The University of Cincinnati School of Education seeks to improve outcomes for students in high needs schools by preparing professionals who recognize the moral imperative to teach all children. Instilling 21st century skills information and communication, thinking and problem solving, and interpersonal relationships and self-direction provides the foundation for our work. The School of Education will lead the professional development component of the Lab.

STRIVE, a subsidiary of the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, brings together community leaders to catalyze a national movement focused on the success of every child from cradle to career. Building on the principles of collective impact, Strive is helping communities unite stakeholders around shared goals, measures and results in education, and organizing a national network of communities. Strive’s will recruit resources to support the Lab and assist in dissemination of results.

The Ohio STEM Learning Network, a program of the Battelle Institute, is an initiative that connects and unites the STEM education assets in Ohio and provides a forum to share the work. Its goal is to provide a STEM innovation and knowledge network engaging all of Ohio’s formal and informal educational assets to continuously improve STEM curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher quality, leadership and community engagement.

Explain your selections

The support for the project, its institutionalization, and sustainability will continue to be the responsibility of the founding partnership of CPS, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, and UC. The project advisory board is committed for a minimum 25-year horizon for investments and support for STEM Education and Innovation to sustain a rigorous transformation agenda in our portfolio of urban-serving schools. The goals for ongoing support include the implementation of a comprehensive development plan and fundraising. However, we are determined to move the project from a reliance on one-time grant funding to a fiscally sustainable model. The partner organizations are planning over a 5-year horizon to integrate sufficient core funding for the STEM High School and Innovation Lab into their respective annual budgets (CPS & UC). These core commitments will be complemented by the development plan/fundraising and some training grants. Our commitment is to transition this project from one-time funding to full inclusion in the institutional budgets with additional fiscal resources to support the training, collaboration, and best practices dissemination goals of the STEM Innovation Lab. Additionally, the project will be leveraging the personnel resources of the founding organizations including 1) STEM teacher interns; 2) Woodrow Wilson STEM Teacher Fellows; 3) distinguished teachers and faculty in residence, and 4) University of Cincinnati service learning undergraduate and graduates who will serve their volunteer hours with the project.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Working with current and new partners, we believe that the diversity of the partnership and the input from new participants will significantly strengthen the project. By encouraging active participation and engaging multiple perspectives, the curriculum and projects will be improved, reflect diversity and become a resource for everyone committed to enhancing STEM education.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

In 2008, Cincinnati Public Schools, the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Federation of teachers and Strive partnered to create a STEM platform high school that would serve as a model in the region. Utilizing a $600,000 dollar STEM initiative grant through the Ohio Department of Education AND OSLN, the partnership has successful designed and supported a new successful STEM 7-11 high school in the heart of Cincinnati's urban core. CPS allocated the infrastructure, facilities and instructors, UC provided all Hughes STEM students full access to their libraries and all the online digital collections. UC Colleges and research labs are leading 7-12th grade STEM Intersessions, offering Internships, and recruiting mentor/tutors. UC facilities are frequently used by the STEM High School and it is often the case that the partners leverage solutions not available to the school. For example, UC arranged to donate wireless hubs to assure that the school building has 100% wireless internet connectivity. There is a culture of accountability and excellence at Hughes STEM and with its very engaged and active partner base. With these strong partners, the STEM collaborative has been very successful at fulfilling its mandate to improve STEM education and increase representation of underrepresented populations.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

The blueprints for all of the learning experiences that we implement with students are designed to meet the Ohio Common Core, Ohio Academic Content standards and are aligned to 21st Century Skills Learning Outcomes. This intentional design ensures that our STEM content is academically rigorous, yet engaging and helps to maintain a standard of excellence within the curriculum and in its implementation. We engage our partners in the design of many projects, but most especially we consult with them on the STEM intersession experience. An example of this would be the Procter and Gamble led intersession, Engineering on the Paper Towel. The STEM professionals at Procter and Gamble worked side-by-side with our teachers to create a STEM experience that taught the engineering design process, important related science and mathematics content and utilized team-based critical problem-solving skills. The end product was a new student designed innovation on the paper towel,as well as a student-created multimedia presentation by the team to an audience of STEM professionals. In the presentation, the students shared their new learnings, highlighted their team dynamics and made recommendations to the STEM professionals on ways to innovate on their product.


Investment, Human Resources/Talent, Marketing/Media, Research/Information, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

The Hughes vision is anchored in the belief and practice that grow and align the resources of PK-12 schools and key partner organizations. Just as partnership and collaboration to be successful has to be driven by grassroots stakeholders (parents, students, teachers), so does the framework of STEM School partners need to practice the best tenants of collaboration and partnership. We are constantly leveraging community resources and expertise to support the school. At the same time these partnerships with museums, business and industry are allowing for dynamic and innovative new student experiences in real world settings, routinely inviting scientists and engineers into the classroom, and effectively linking partner assets to meet student and school academic priorities.


Human Resources/Talent, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

We are conducted joint partner and teacher training and professional development and we are as a partnership team sharing STEM and collaboration best practices with other schools in the region.We hope that everyone interested in helping students, particularly disadvantaged and females get turned on about STEM and will use the Lab to share ideas, lessons, critiques, best practices and resources. The resources of the Lab will be open to everyone. The open availability and sharing of content, collaborative editing and idea interchange will constantly spark innovative ways to engage diverse students and teachers to improve the way we teach STEM.