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Afterschool STEM programs help close America’s skills gap

“STEM Ready America” event in Washington, D.C., highlights how afterschool programs can provide gains in critical workforce skills and interest in science careers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 1, 2017) – Students participating in afterschool programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) reported increased interest in STEM careers and gains in important 21st century skills such as critical thinking and perseverance—skills in high demand in today’s workforce.

The key findings emerge from the Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, an ambitious study supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next, which will be released this month. The study looked at the impact of 160 afterschool programs, surveying nearly 1,600 youth in grades 4-12 across 11 states. It is the latest in a growing body of evidence demonstrating that afterschool programs help students succeed in school, work, and life. Highlights of the findings include that more than 70 percent of students across all states reported positive gains in areas of science interest, science identity, science career interest and career knowledge, and 21st century skills, including perseverance and critical thinking. 


​​The Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016 was conducted by The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience at Harvard University and McLean Hospital and the Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis & Policy at Texas Tech University. Researchers analyzed retrospective self-reports completed by students and surveys completed by program instructors to assess the impact of state system-building strategies and support on quality, quantity, and youth outcomes in STEM-focused afterschool programs. More than half of the programs evaluated are funded by the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.


Findings from the new study will be included in STEM Ready America: Inspiring and Preparing Students for Success with Afterschool and Summer Learning, a compendium of articles from 40 leading experts featured on a new website ( The site provides success stories, research, and articles on STEM learning from policymakers, educators, and business, foundation, and youth development leaders.


Read the top-line findings from this report, which will be released this month.

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