Ecosystems like yours are helping give the future of STEM education the PUSH it needs. Now more than ever, our systems of learning are ripe for reinvention. Too many classrooms, programs, and institutions lack the explicit equity focus needed to ensure each student succeeds. In turn, students from specific racial and ethnic groups, namely Black and Brown students, continue to be underrepresented in STEM majors and fields, creating not only a diversity deficit but a deficit of ideas and innovation needed to solve society’s most pressing problems.
the STEM PUSH Network, a National Science Foundation INCLUDES Alliance, has brought together regional STEM Learning Ecosystems, precollege STEM programs, researchers, culturally sustaining pedagogy experts, higher education admissions leaders, and other partners to create systemic change in post-secondary STEM admissions. Together, they’re addressing a key breakpoint in current learning pathways for Black and Brown students: the successful transition from precollege STEM programs to undergraduate STEM programs.
To increase the number of Black and Brown students pursuing STEM by reinventing the relationship between precollege STEM programs and higher education admissions.

Navigating the Playbook

The playbook presents nine broad strategies that can help you reimagine the relationship between precollege STEM programs and college admissions in your region. Each strategy includes several specific plays that help bring it to life. As the STEM PUSH Network continues to grow, we’ll revise and update strategies and plays based on the learnings of our members.

Enacted Plays.

These plays have been tried and tested by STEM PUSH cohort ecosystems.

Aspirational Plays.

New, untested ideas that have the potential to be highly effective.

Read a Vignette.

Brief examples of how STEM PUSH cohort ecosystems have implemented a given play.

PUSH Play.

Soundbites from Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 ecosystems providing insight into their experience.


Before exploring the plays, let’s review some terminology. You’ll hear several words and phrases specific to STEM PUSH throughout the playbook. Here are a few of the most important:
Educational programs that offer STEM learning and activities for students in grades K-12. The STEM PUSH Network engages PCSPs who work at the high school level, are urban-based, and have some pre-existing commitment to racial equity. See full list of STEM PUSH PCSP criteria.
A group of regional STEM Learning Ecosystems and PCSPs who joined the STEM PUSH Network together. Currently, there are two cohorts within the network, with a third cohort joining in 2022.

A special type of network defined by four key characteristics: “1) Focused on a well-specified common aim; 2) Guided by a deep understanding of a problem, the system that produces it, and a shared working theory of how to improve it; 3) Disciplined through an approach to testing changes using the methods of improvement science; 4) Coordinated to accelerate the development, testing and refinement of interventions, their rapid diffusion across participating classrooms or schools, and their effective integration into varied contexts.” (Bryk et al., 2015;)

The STEM PUSH Network brings together PCSPs to work as a NIC, as it provides a powerful and effective structure for the complex work of broadening participation in STEM. Learn more about NICs.

The STEM PUSH Network is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES), a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. It is also co-funded by the NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program and the Advancing Informal STEM Learning Program (AISL).

Quick Start Toolkit

These resources provide additional information on the STEM PUSH Network, the ecosystem role in advancing equitable STEM admissions, and specific tools you can use to begin recruiting PCSPs and sharing your work. Rather than strict templates, these are meant to be models that inspire and inform as you explore the playbook.


Identify PCSPs based on STEM PUSH criteria.

Brainstorm a recruitment list based on the STEM PUSH Network’s PCSP criteria. Familiarize yourself with the STEM PUSH Network’s recommended criteria for PCSPs. Then, begin brainstorming possible programs from within your ecosystem that fit the criteria. To guide your brainstorm, focus on one or two requirements, those that may help you refine your list the…

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Leverage ecosystem resources to support PCSPs.

Dedicate enough time and personnel. There are many ways to leverage your ecosystem to support PCSPs, but they all require a dedicated investment of time and resources. You are the link that helps bring STEM stakeholders together to build a more equitable, accessible pathway for Black and Brown learners to pursue STEM. As you embark…

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Connect PCSPs with higher education admissions departments.

Work from the inside out: Reach out to PCSP parent institutions and other ecosystem members in higher education, and ask them who they know. If any of your PCSPs are housed at colleges or universities, begin by working with these programs to connect with their admissions departments. Then, reach out to any other colleges, universities,…

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Disseminate your work and the work of STEM PUSH.

Highlight STEM PUSH in your ecosystem’s core communications. Does your ecosystem have a website, newsletter, or social media presence? Use these channels to share information and updates related to STEM PUSH work. In addition, what more unique communications do your ecosystem use, and how could you use them to share about STEM PUSH? The California…

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Help design and brand STEM PUSH accreditation.

Note: The STEM PUSH Network is in the early phases of accreditation development. As this work continues to evolve, check back for additional details and plays! Learn more about accreditation. The STEM PUSH Network is partnering with the Middle States Association (MSA) to accredit PCSPs for their ability to broaden participation in STEM. This new…

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Share your experience with fellow STEM Learning Ecosystems.

Talk to other ecosystems with goals and priorities similar to STEM PUSH. You’re welcome to share STEM PUSH and related work with any (or all!) ecosystems you interact with, including neighboring ecosystems. However, those focused on STEM equity, representation, or higher education are likely to be the most receptive to these conversations. Before joining the…

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