Engagement in Practice: STEM Engagement through Mentoring
The declining levels of U.S. student achievement in mathematics and science were brought into focus by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which stated that the U.S., especially at the elementary and secondary levels, is struggling to remain competitive with other nations in STEM education (PCAST, 2010). Furthermore, according to a report issued by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES, 2015), less than 30 percent of students enrolled in the U.S. are proficient in the areas of science or mathematics. The landscape becomes more troubling when one considers mathematics and science performance among students who traditionally are underrepresented (UR) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. These students include African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, students with special learning needs, and women. For instance, according to NAEP, fourth grade African American students scored on average 24 points lower than their White counterparts, and 35 points lower than their Asian American counterparts in 2015. In eighth grade, the gaps are even larger: Thirty-two and 47 points, respectively. Similarly, fourth grade Latino students scored 21 points lower than their White peers in fourth grade mathematics and 26 points lower in 8th grade mathematics (NCES, 2015). Moreover, the likelihood of persistence in a STEM major is strikingly lower for UR students when compared to their White and Asian counterparts (Arcidiacono, Aucejo, & Spenner, 2012).
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