Helios Education Foundation $4M Investment Helps Science Foundation Build a Statewide STEM Knowledge Management System and Launch the STEM School Pilot Initiative

Posted on: August 17, 2012

Helios Education Foundation is investing more than $4 million through a three-year grant to build a statewide STEM Knowledge Management system and to fund the Helios STEM School Pilot initiative which is a new and critical part of Science Foundation Arizona’s (SFAz) recently launched Arizona STEM Network.

Helios and SFAz will work to identify, through an upcoming RFP process, several schools across the state to be selected as Helios STEM Pilot School sites. These Pilot sites will be given seed funds and technical support to integrate quality STEM education into their classrooms. In addition, these sites will be provided the resources and technical assistance needed to integrate STEM education in whole-school and district settings.

With 15-year-olds across the country scoring lower than their international counterparts in mathematics1, and with Arizona students performing among the lowest in the country in science2, Helios and SFAz are working to transform science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching and learning in Arizona.

Helios’ investment of more than $4 million to fund the Arizona STEM Network’s Knowledge Management System and the Helios STEM School Pilot initiative will help SFAz:

  • Build out and implement the next phase of the Arizona STEM Network,
  • Research and develop effective models for STEM education that can be replicated in classrooms statewide,
  • Integrate best practices of STEM teaching and learning into Arizona schools and districts in support of higher expectations and academic achievement,
  • Leverage effective education practices and teaching advances,
  • Provide web-based tools for the implementation of Common Core standards,
  • Improve data-driven decision making and measurements of progress, and
  • Create opportunities for the business sector to engage more meaningfully with schools.

The Arizona STEM Network will drive access to effective STEM education by providing a centralized infrastructure, tools, resources and metrics needed by educators, businesses and donors to improve educational outcomes and achieve collective impact for Arizona students.

"The Helios STEM School Pilot and associated tools will enable us to develop and validate effective models for education that can be replicated to reach more kids and teachers throughout Arizona,” said Darcy Renfro, VP of education and coordinator for SFAz’s Arizona STEM Network. “This is a big step to helping us reach our collective goals for greater student achievement and success long term.”

The Arizona STEM Network will develop these models for quality STEM integration across multiple schools and districts and create a system for capturing, organizing, measuring and disseminating information to help broaden the impacts and availability of STEM education in Arizona. This initiative will provide a proof of concept and implementation models for STEM education reform that can be replicated throughout the state.

“We are forging an expanded path toward education improvement by developing an implementation plan and knowledge structure for educators that fills gaping holes in previous educational reform efforts,” said William Harris, CEO and president of SFAz. “Useful tools and information, experttechnical assistance, strategic connections between parents, students, schools, teachers, administrators, employers and the community will take advantage of the things we know that work in the classroom to improve student achievement.”

Better Decision Making through New Online Tool

Additionally, Science Foundation Arizona in collaboration with its partner Maricopa County Educational Service Agency (MCESA), led the development of the STEM Immersion Matrix tool in response to a need articulated statewide: teachers, principals, superintendents and other administrators want accessible models, qualified information and technical assistance to help bring STEM into their daily operations. The tool is available for all Arizona schools at

A suite of web-based tools will assist teachers and administrators in implementing quality STEM programs aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards all aimed at improving student success. This process will also help test and validate the STEM Immersion Matrix as a quality diagnostic tool and STEM implementation guide which can be used by all Arizona Schools.

“Arizona is at a crossroads in education where we have to be more intentional about embedding STEM education into our classrooms if our state is going to deliver students who are academically prepared to compete in a global workforce,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “Helios is focused on better preparing students to succeed in college and career, and that starts with increasing rigor, relevance and proficiency in STEM, but it also means raising the quality and content knowledge of our educators. We believe the Helios STEM School Pilot will bring all of these things together, and we are excited to be working with Science Foundation Arizona to move the needle forward in STEM education in Arizona.”

Preparing Arizona for Economic Success

These changes, anchored by the Helios STEM Pilot School initiative, come at a time when global economies are becoming even more knowledge-focused and more reliant on a highly-skilled, 21st century workforce.

Studies show that a growing science and engineering workforce contributes to an economy's capacity for innovation, and as economies become more knowledge-intensive, science and engineering-related skills will be needed in jobs not traditionally considered part of the STEM workforce, such as managers, sales representatives, and even financial analysts1.

Arizona’s economic future depends on its ability to graduate students prepared to succeed in college and in careers that will demand high-level, STEM-related skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, analytical thought, creativity, collaboration and innovation.

Creating a college-going culture for all students that supports advancements in academic preparedness with an emphasis on STEM education, especially in whole-school settings, is a critical component in Arizona’s competitiveness and its future economic success.


1 “Science and Engineering Indicators: 2012 Digest” l Arlington, VA (NSB 12-02) l January 2012

2 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) “The Nation's Report Card: Science 2011”


Category: College and Career Readiness

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