What is a Networked Improvement Community (NIC)?​

The NIC is the Secret Sauce for the STEM PUSH Network

NIC Networked Improvement Committee Graphic

A NIC is a specialized form of a network, defined by four key characteristics that make it a powerful structure to engage in the complexity of broadening participation in STEM:

  1. Focused on a well-specified common aim.
  2. Guided by a deep understanding of the 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;).

An accreditation process for pre-college STEM programs will be developed to elevate the work of the programs, resulting in them having greater currency with post-secondary admissions offices.

Impact of the NIC

The STEM PUSH Network and its Network Improvement Community have partnered with established urban-based STEM pre-college programs, connected to one of the regional STEM Learning Ecosystems in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York and the Bay Area of California. These programs joined the NIC after performing a guided self-study using evidence-based standards for pre-college program capacity to broaden participation in STEM.
Group of Diverse International Students Celebrating Graduation
  • The STEM Ecosystems are working collaboratively within the NIC to develop and adapt tools and practices that can strengthen areas within the quality standards for broadening participation in STEM.

  • The pre-college programs can then apply for pre-college STEM Program Accreditation (beginning in 2021) through our partnership with the Middle States Association.

  • More broadly, our regional STEM Ecosystem partners will help to deeply infuse and spread the work of the participating PCSPs into the local STEM ecosystem, particularly to build recognition of the work and its value with higher education admissions offices and other PCSPs that are not yet participating in the NIC.