ASSET STEM Education (Pittsburgh)
In 1992, Bayer convened a small group of community and education leaders in Pittsburgh to discuss a pressing problem: how to improve science education in the region’s elementary schools. At the time, science education reform was high on the national agenda. Just a few years before, The National Academies of Science and The Smithsonian Institution created a joint project – the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) – to improve science education. The National Science Foundation put in place its systemic science reform initiative for that same reason.
Following this initial meeting, Bayer began an intensive research period that took its executives to Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to learn about best practices in science education. In 1994, Bayer created ASSET Inc. (Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching) as an independent 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to bringing systemic science education reform to Allegheny County elementary schools.
ASSET is based on The Smithsonian Science Education Center model of reform, which includes the following five elements:
- Quality curriculum
- Teacher training
- Centralized materials support
- Assessment that is aligned to standards and curriculum
- Community and administrative involvement
ASSET has seen remarkable growth since its start as a pilot in five schools in two local school districts:
- 1995: ASSET garnered the first of what would become $5 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. The grants provided two assets to 20 more schools throughout the region: its system of teacher professional development and hands-on, inquiry centered curriculum materials to 20 more schools throughout the region.
- 2000: When the NSF grants concluded, Bayer once again helped ASSET transition to a fee-for-service organization (previously, it was offered to schools for free), allowing the organization to become independent and self-sustaining.
- 2006: Pennsylvania launched Science: It's Elementary (SIE), a statewide initiative to improve elementary science education. ASSET was chosen to design and manage SIE in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. During the five-year program, the Pennsylvania legislature appropriated nearly $60 million for SIE to improve the teaching and learning of science.
- 2010: ASSET was awarded a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to create regional professional development centers and an advanced professional development program to further STEM education across Pennsylvania. Through this $20 million grant, ASSET works with dozens of rural and high-needs elementary schools.
- Today: ASSET reaches more than 7,000 educators and 225,000 students annually.