Preparing High Achieving Urban Students for STEM Careers: Engineers of the Future Program
Over 700 rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in Baltimore City Schools will participate in a 6-week summer learning program that informs students about STEM careers while preparing them to take a virtual Algebra I course during the school year.
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by preparing and interesting high achieving middle school students for advanced math courses in high school and eventually in engineering careers.
The project by the Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) and the RAND Corporation is motivated by a clear need in the U.S. to improve the representation of African-American and Latino talent pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. The available data show that the percentage of African Americans among U.S. engineering bachelor's degree recipients has been declining for more than a decade to 3.5% in 2014. Only 1.1% of the nation's black college freshmen were enrolled in engineering programs in 2010. The project being conducted involves enrolling selected high achieving Baltimore students from schools which don't offer Algebra 1 in 8th grade. The project will offer a 6 week summer preparation program to improve their math skills and expose them to STEM careers. The students will then take a Virtual Algebra 1 class once the semester starts. Since mathematics is a key topic for STEM and lack of math skills is likely to limit some students in pursuing STEM careers, the project helps address an important need. The activities in which students will be involved include field trips and weekly seminars. In addition there is a very detailed timeline and assessment plan to measure the outcomes on all key variables.
Several local school employees/teachers will be directly involved in the project. This is an advantage since it demonstrates that the project clearly has school support. These teachers will be directly developing/enabling Engineers of the Future. The criteria for selecting participants will include the following: There will be a total of 180 randomly selected, high achieving students from Baltimore City Public Schools, a lower-income urban school district with a high proportion of African-American schoolchildren. The involvement of industry professionals will provides role models for the students, giving them a look at the kind of careers they can obtain if they pursue STEM careers. The three-year project will impact 16 middle school teachers and 180 students. The summer learning is combined with virtual learning during the school year. The project will be a combination of blended classroom instruction, hands-on project-based work, and introductions to various STEM careers via field trips and seminars with professionals. Engineers of the Future will offer 3 summer and 3 academic years of support to city schools using a single K-12 adaptive diagnostic test for reading and mathematics that pinpoints student needs down to the sub-skill level. The project will specifically address gaps in knowledge and contribute to the evidence-based data on successful education programs for promoting STEM education in middle schools, especially those in lower-income, urban school districts with high proportions of African-American schoolchildren. The potential to impact a large number of students by working through Baltimore schools is a major strength of the project. Even though the project focuses on math education, a broad range of STEM careers are involved especially with industry (e.g., with Northrop Grumman). The project examines program artifacts (program materials), semi-structured interviews with program staff, observations of instruction, focus groups with students, questionnaires, surveys and school records which are the kind of data that could be used by other urban school districts. Hence, the essence of the research would provide valuable information and new knowledge of the role virtual learning has when blended with classroom instruction on improving a student's understanding of what is being taught.