John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School at Aurora University

At a press conference on June 21, 2012, the Institute for Collaboration of Aurora University announced a Dunham Fund capital grant of $2.35 million to build a STEM Partnership School on the university campus to implement an innovative and collaborative mathematics and science educational program for 3rd through 8th grade students from Aurora West 129, Aurora East 131, and Indian Prairie 204. By naming the school in John Dunham's memory, the institution will celebrate the role of the Dunham Fund in prompting development of the STEM proposal and serving as the project's inaugural donor. The partnership school will be the culmination of a three-year planning process spearheaded and coordinated by the Institute for Collaboration that also includes an Aurora Mathematics and Science Education Center Committee made up of additional Aurora and Chicago-area collaborative government, business, school district, educational, and social service organizations and funders.

Aurora Mathematics and Science Education Center Committee Members:

Aurora East School District 131
Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce
Aurora University
Aurora West School District 129
Communities In Schools
City of Aurora
DuPage Children’s Museum
Exelon Corporation
Fox Valley Park District
Gateway Foundation
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Indian Prairie School District 204
Packer Foundation Center for Applications Based Learning
Quad County Urban League
Robert Crown Center for Health Education
SciTech Hands-On Museum
Truax Associates
VVF Limited
Waste Management

The impetus for the partnership school was a $100,000 first-place Challenge for Change grant awarded to Aurora University by the Dunham Fund in 2009 for the development of an innovative and collaborative program “concept” that had real potential for future implementation, significant long-term transformative impact, and sustainability. The STEM Partnership School concept was authorized by the Illinois legislature with the passage of special legislation that had bipartisan support and the championship of House Minority Leader Tom Cross, State Senator Linda Holmes and Representative Linda Chapa LaVia. Additionally, Acting Assistant Secretary of Education, Michael Yudin, wrote a letter commending Aurora University and its partners for this innovative project.

Following the authorization of the school by the State of Illinois, the Dunham Fund again supported the project by issuing an additional $250,000 grant and $150,000 challenge grant that was more than matched by the Exelon Foundation’s $500,000 support of the program concept. The collaborative has subsequently received additional endorsement and funding from Cabot Microelectronics, VVF, Waste Management, Caterpillar, Tellabs, Google and others.

The STEM program addresses the documented need to promote mathematics and science education to elementary and middle school age students with the hope of increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education interest at the local high schools. All four school districts have committed to sending students to the partnership school. The program also provides for teacher development opportunities in STEM through the graduate program at Aurora University and the opportunity for the university’s undergraduates majoring in education to receive enhanced classroom experiences at the partnership school.

The Institute for Collaboration of Aurora University has already established a record of success. After-school programming is provided to over 1,000 middle school students in City of Aurora schools. This past summer, approximately 80 students from Aurora East, Aurora West, Indian Prairie and Oswego participated in the Amazing Science program on the campus of Aurora University. Content-area master's degrees funded through Illinois Mathematics and Science Partnership grants have been earned by 75 area teachers. The Illinois State Board of Education has evaluated each of Aurora University’s master’s degree programs and has given them the highest rating of “transformative.”

Photos: Aurora area middle-school students participating in the Amazing Science 2011 summer program as part of the University’s Institute for Collaboration STEM partnership programming. Photos courtesy of Aurora University.