Science Foundation Arizona and Helios Education Foundation Reveal Finalists for the Helios STEM School Pilot Program

Posted on: February 6, 2013

Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) named 14 finalists for the Helios STEM School Pilot program, which is part of a strategic partnership and $4 million investment by Helios and SFAz to help build and support the Arizona STEM Network.

Multiple applicants will be selected as Helios STEM School Pilot sites and announced in March to receive up to $500,000 in financial and technical support to implement STEM programs and activities for the next three years. These activities will include assisting them in the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as equipping their teachers with the knowledge, resources and skills they will need to provide their students access to quality STEM learning experiences. In addition, SFAz will identify models of effective implementation of STEM practices in a variety of schools and districts that can be sustained, measured, and replicated.

The 14 finalists for this program represent a diverse range of geographic and demographic communities from around Arizona. Similarly the programs represented in the proposals of the finalists span across multiple grade levels and represent a varied array of educational opportunities. Finalists include:

  • Alhambra Elementary School District (Phoenix)
  • Altar Valley School District (Tucson)
  • Arizona Academy of Science (Phoenix)
  • Bagdad Unified School District (Bagdad)
  • Canyon Ridge School (Surprise)
  • City High School (Tucson)
  • Coconino Accommodation District (Flagstaff)
  • Congress Elementary School (Congress)
  • Flagstaff Unified School District (Flagstaff)
  • Mesa Unified School District (Mesa)
  • Salt River Elementary School (Scottsdale)
  • Scottsdale Unified School District (Scottsdale and Paradise Valley)
  • W.F. Killip Elementary School (Flagstaff)
  • Yuma Elementary School (Yuma)

Finalists were selected from a statewide pool of over 60 applicants who participated in a competitive request for proposals (RFP) to help schools and districts implement STEM education practices in classrooms and to help formulate successful models for the future.

"We have heard from participants that this process has helped a number of the schools define their common vision and prepare for the next step in STEM education," notes Darcy Renfro, coordinator of the Arizona STEM Network at SFAz. "The RFP process for all applicants has been meaningful for the overall development of their individual STEM initiatives."

The Helios STEM School Pilot program is part of the Arizona STEM Network by SFAz and is designed to improve student outcomes and success rates, increase student readiness for advanced math and science courses, and better prepare students for college and career success.

Public and not-for-profit public charter schools and districts across the state were encouraged to participate in the RFP process to build interdisciplinary, integrated, rigorous and relevant STEM education opportunities for students regardless of their geographic location, academic ability and socioeconomic status. Proposals received at least three mail reviews and three panel reviews from STEM experts around the country. The 14 finalists will be evaluated through site visits to determine the overall quality of the proposals, the leadership and strength of the design team and the potential impact on students, schools and the broader community. Selected applicants will be notified in March 2013. Funds will be awarded over a three-year period and will include support from full-time STEM technical advisors.

"The interest and level of engagement in this RFP process from a variety of schools in a number of communities has been inspiring," said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. "From the very beginning, this effort has been about creating systemic and sustained improvements in education. Our ultimate goal is to learn how STEM teaching and learning supports high academic expectations and achievement, and we're looking forward to learning from the diverse approaches the pilot schools will implement as they integrate STEM strategies into their schools."

Through whole-school implementation and the integration of STEM education, schools will be working to implement quality STEM programs aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, validate replicable models of STEM teaching and learning as well as improve data-driven decision making and measurements of progress.

Professional development opportunities for teachers will be available through the process, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to make learning more relevant to students. In addition, school evaluations will focus on how STEM teaching and learning practices may help increase success in math and science and increase student engagement in STEM activities outside of the classroom.

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating a high expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida by investing in initiatives that create opportunities for postsecondary education success. The Foundation focuses its investments across the education continuum in three key impact areas: Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years and Postsecondary Scholarships.

As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its leadership, expertise and financial resources to better prepare students to succeed academically and to compete in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $125 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information about the Foundation, visit

About Science Foundation Arizona

Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization initiated in 2006 by the Greater Phoenix Leadership Inc., Southern Arizona Leadership Council and the Flagstaff Forty in conjunction with the executive and legislative branches of state government. SFAz serves as a catalyst for high-wage, knowledge-based jobs and economic diversity through administration and strict oversight of research, development and education grants to public education and other non-profit research performing institutions. For more information, visit

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