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Exploring the Verizon Foundation's education programs
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 07, 2014 14:16 PM

The Verizon Foundation recently announced a progressive, multi-year program that supports the efforts of student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math. Students learning the fundamental concepts within these subjects, known as STEM, also practice critical thinking and analysis, which are among the goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Aligning with the Common Core
The Standards target K-12 students and aim to help them achieve higher levels of reading comprehension and understanding of mathematics. Many educators implementing the Standards also use learning software and other educational devices during class time. The Verizon Foundation believes that technology will help change the way teachers approach STEM subjects and facilitate a deeper understanding of important concepts.

Over the next three years, the foundation will provide about $100 million in cash and technology to supplement new or ongoing education initiatives. Most of the funds will go toward the professional development of instructors teaching STEM subjects, including workshops, training and conferences on how to effectively use technology in the classroom.

Expanding current Verizon education initiatives
The Verizon Foundation already has multiple education programs in place. The Foundation's Innovative Learning Schools (ILS) program assists teachers using mobile technology in their classrooms. The ILS program seeks out schools across the U.S. that want to establish collaboration between math, science and technology instructors. The program will put teachers through intensive two-year training in mobile devices that can be used in class.

The Foundation also partnered with the Technology Student Association to develop Verizon's Innovative App Challenge. The challenge is an ongoing competition to create unique concepts for a mobile application. Teams of middle and high school students, with the supervision of a school faculty member, work to incorporate STEM knowledge into an app that addresses a problem within the school or community. School teams that win receive as much as $20,000 to further their STEM education and personal tablets for team members provided by Samsung. 

Measuring the programs' effectiveness
Verizon's programs show promising results. About 59 percent of teachers participating in the ILS program reported an increase in their ability to individualize instruction, and 40 percent of the children showed improvement in problem-solving abilities. Efficient teacher instruction and increasing students' problem-solving skills are current goals of the CCSS. In one Massachusetts school, a number of biology students had difficulty retaining subject knowledge and consistently failed standardized tests in biology, preventing them from graduating and increasing the risk of dropping out of school. One year after participating in Verizon's ILS program, every at-risk student passed the exam. A survey of the students who participated in Verizon's first app challenge revealed that 86 percent of the winners wanted to continue on a path to develop computer programming skills.