Improving odds for incarcerated youth through STEM

INSITE: Integrating STEM Into Transition Education for Incarcerated Learners

Principal investigator:
Principal Investigator:
Sarup Mathur
Award amount:
$863,743
Originating sponsor:
Grant start date:
October 1, 2019
Grant end date:
September 30, 2022

The challenge:

Incarcerated youth have the poorest post-secondary outcomes of any adolescent learners. They are unemployed or underemployed, and experience poverty and homelessness at rates substantially higher than other youth. Previously incarcerated youth also need individualized support during reentry to successfully engage in work and offset high rates of reoffending and recidivism. Currently, most incarcerated learners lack access and exposure to high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics: education opportunities, competencies, career preparation, certifications, and pathways to STEM programs and employers. This lack of access, exposure and skills prevents these learners from attaining 21st-century STEM careers and the associated benefits. 

The approach:

INSITE — Integrating STEM Into Transition Education for Incarcerated Learners — is a $1.42 million collaboration between Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, with the pilot program to be carried out within the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. It builds on previously independent projects, Projects RISE and RISE-IT (MLFTC) and Project RAISE (UMA). There are three components to the INSITE project:

  • Integrating the RAISE curriculum for STEM career exploration unit currently in use with incarcerated learners into Merging Two Worlds, an existing, scientifically supported transition-to-career curriculum for incarcerated learners
  • Developing a modified version of this curriculum in a universal design for learning, app-based framework that utilizes multiple means of representation (multimedia, text, simulations, etc.) and multiple means of expression to fully engage and support incarcerated learners
  • Developing a transition-to-work component that links classroom STEM learning to STEM career competencies, brings STEM employers to meet with learners in multiple capacities, supports transition to STEM employment, and supports STEM employers and learners in successful career placement

Three research designs will measure the impact of the INSITE program on student outcomes.

  • A quasi-experimental (TX/Comparison) group design to demonstrate the impact of INSITE on STEM knowledge, career competencies and career readiness
  • A mixed method sequential explanatory design to demonstrate the impact of the “inside” curriculum on post-release experiences in STEM careers
  • A longitudinal growth model to examine the impact of INSITE on post-release outcomes — postsecondary education and training, employment, earnings, offending, recidivism, etc. — for both INSITE and Comparison participants

INSITE proposes to advance knowledge by:

  • Measuring the impact of the UDL app-based curriculum on STEM learning; specifically the acquisition of STEM competencies
  • Broadening participation in STEM fields to include incarcerated and previously incarcerated youth
  • Promoting STEM workforce development by increasing the number of youth obtaining STEM-related career preparation, furloughs, certifications, training and jobs; the number of teachers receiving STEM-related training and certification; and the number of community, postsecondary and business/industry partners actively supporting and engaging in STEM learning.

Findings and impact:

Funding for the project continues through Sept. 2022.