The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator (STEM Accelerator) initiative is focused on supporting regional teams of education and workforce partners to increase the number of students who will earn a STEM credential. The STEM Accelerator aligns with of GTF’s focus on rural areas of the state by including a partnership in far West Texas as well as the foundation’s focus on regional work and pathways through partnerships with regional education and workforce partners to create smooth pathways for students through a postsecondary credential and enter the workforce.

Please read on for an update of the STEM Accelerator provided by Kelty Garbee, Deputy Director of Programs at Educate Texas.  

Texas is projected to have approximately 9 percent of the nation's future STEM opportunities, the second highest
in the country.1 At the same time, the state's rapidly changing demographic mix will pose challenges as Texas's growing, economically disadvantaged, minority students have less than a 10 percent postsecondary completion rate.2 Therefore, the urgency to identify policy and programmatic strategies to meet this need is critical.

The Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator (STEM Accelerator) initiative is focused on supporting regional teams of education and workforce partners to increase the number of students who will earn a STEM credential.

The goal of STEM Accelerator is to assemble regional teams who will ensure that up to 100,000 students earn STEM degrees and certificates (both two-year and four-year) that meet regionally-identified workforce needs. Regional teams will accomplish this by examining data, identifying the STEM pathway(s) in which they plan to work, and engaging faculty and workforce to redesign gateway courses in STEM pathways and provide professional development for faculty to support improved and innovative methods of teaching and learning (such as active learning or project-based learning).

The two major outcomes of this project are to
1) increase retention in STEM pathways by ensuring that STEM teaching practices are engaging and supportive and
2) ensure that institutional policies and systems support retention and completion of STEM pathways, particularly among underrepresented students.

The five regions participating in this project are Dallas, El Paso, Houston, South Texas, and West Texas.  By collaborating in regional teams, educators and workforce partners are able to build new connections, strengthen existing ones, and expand their reach beyond one institution. The goal of regional partnership is to strategically tackle issues and topics as a team in order to achieve a lasting change.

Greater Texas Foundation made it possible for Educate Texas to include a rural region in its portfolio – West Texas, which is led by Western Texas College. The team includes six community colleges (all of which are Hispanic Serving Institutions) and two four-year college partners, as well as multiple school districts, three workforce boards, and the West Texas Energy Consortium.  The regional team is focusing on building and maintaining a pipeline of students into the energy sector.

As the only region in the portfolio that is predominantly rural, West Texas is making important contributions to the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator. West Texas is helping us understand and work through the unique challenges faced by rural schools as they attempt to prepare students for college and careers. 

The goal of the West Texas regional team is to increase student success and persistence in the math courses required to pursue STEM careers. To do this, the team will

  • Infuse AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, into program curricula across all community colleges on the regional team: AVID is an organization that uses research-based strategies to develop critical thinking, literacy, and math skills across all content areas.

  • Expand the Charles A. Dana Center’s New Mathways Project across West Texas: The New Mathways Project is a systemic approach to increasing the number of students who complete math coursework aligned with their chosen program of study.

  • Develop a Virtual STEM Resource Center that provides STEM education and career information tailored to the needs of different stakeholder groups.

Through these efforts, the West Texas team hopes to accomplish the following outcomes:

  • Train 360 college faculty and 200 high school teachers

  • Serve 28,000 college students and 11,000 high school students

  • Produce 3,300 certificates and 2,800 Associate degrees

For additional information about the Texas STEM Degree Accelerator, visit www.edtx.org.

1 Schleicher, A. (2012). Education At a Glance: OECD Indicators.
2 National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (2012). A new measure of educational success in Texas. The Texas Tribune (2014). Higher Ed Outcomes. Austin, TX.