UR aims to broaden STEM participation

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The University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education is on a mission to create and sustain a challenging mathematics program in high-need and high-poverty schools to fuel an interest and competency in STEM fields. The UR school recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to meet those aims.

Titled “Creating a Model for Sustainable Ambitious Mathematics Programs in High-Need Settings: A Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration,” the project builds on the Warner School’s partnership with East High School.

Led by Jeffrey Choppin, professor and chair of teaching and curriculum at the Warner School, the team will explore the linguistic, cognitive and participation challenges for students when implementing an ambitious math program in a high-need context. 

With the help of researchers, professional development leaders, students, teachers, coaches and administrators, the group will work to understand the issues at hand and identify resources necessary to address the demands and sustain thought-provoking secondary mathematics programs in such settings.

“The project team will study the successful ambitious reform efforts of East’s mathematics program to develop a model that can be shared across other schools and districts in high-poverty settings that aim to challenge their students with a rigorous mathematics program,” Choppin says.

Typically, and in contrast to practices that science, technology, engineering and math majors and workers engage in, secondary students aren’t challenged to develop and communicate their own methods in solving demanding math problems. Ambitious math instruction, the Warner school claims, can lead to positive outcomes such as an increase in the number of students taking advanced STEM courses and competency in core STEM practices.

At East, the Educational Partnership Model has witnessed success in advanced mathematics courses. Grades 6-8 have experienced gains in scores at Level 2 and above on state assessments, from 19 percent in 2014-15 to 36 percent in 2018-19. At the East Upper School, grades 9-12, the on-time Regents passage rates have more than doubled in mathematics and the graduation rate has improved from 33 percent in 2015 to 77 percent this year, officials say.

It is widely known that students who come from high-poverty, high-need schools are underrepresented in STEM careers and academics. Researchers across the nation have been working on ways to reduce achievement gaps. Some have found high-quality active learning, when implemented appropriately, can narrow the divide in STEM courses and promote equity.

Choppin’s team believes its work has the opportunity to broaden access for students who are in communities currently marginalized in STEM fields. The project will include a literature review, interviews, document analysis and observations of mathematics classes. Participants will be key stakeholders at East, including students, teachers, instructional support personnel, and administrators, the Warner School says. 

The grant’s final year—it spans four years—will involve a national group of educators to discuss and refine the model before it is distributed through research publications, journals and other routes. The work also will be shared at national meetings and a conference with mathematics instructional leaders and school administrators from high-need settings nationwide. 

The final version will be offered as a digital workbook for school administrators interested in transforming mathematics programs in high-need districts.

“Our goal is to take what we learn at East to support educators working in other high-need settings to implement and sustain ambitious reform efforts to broaden STEM participation to include historically marginalized students,” Choppin says.

In a 2017 report, ACT, which assesses college readiness, called the U.S. a STEM-deficient nation. Its challenge to states by the end of 2022: “Double the number of STEM-oriented public- private dual enrollment partnerships in order to provide needed—and equitable—access to STEM instruction, especially for rural and urban students who lack the access of their suburban peers.’

The Warner School’s work could be one step in that direction.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

3 thoughts on “UR aims to broaden STEM participation

  1. Lee Drake, thanks for sharing your skepticism about experimental education programs.
    I often wonder WHY RCSD is so CLOSED to outside ideas and people, over the years.
    One idea that comes to me is that educators are afraid of advice and interference.
    What if someone comes and points out some MISTAKES or teacher INCOMPETENCE?
    (The word TEACH and the word CHEAT contain the same letters. Can teachers be cheaters?)

    But another idea is that when schools run EXPERIMENTS, they may feel that any outside
    advice or help may disturb the CONTROLS of the experiments. But what about the students?
    Are the students to be seen as GUINEA PIGS in educational experiments, with controls?

    (This reminds me of the Daniel Prude tragedy, where the information was kept secret)

    Thanks, much Harry Pearle, Ph.D. http://www.SavingSchools.org

  2. Wonderful news, and good luck to Prof. Choppin, the Warner School and East High School!

    Let me again, suggest the funny ALTERNATIVE MATH video, on YouTube.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw&t=81s ALT MATH 8min.

    This spoof tries to make the case that many educators, lack reasoning skills, themselves, so they get defensive, and the make foolish, costly decisions. I think RCSD officials would benefit from this awareness, as they keep failing our Rochester students, year after year.

    Also a new movie, is in the works, called: THE GATEKEEPER, MATH in AMERICA:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3s6hGTsgQA&t=60s 4min Trailer

    Again, good luck Harry S. Pearle, Ph.D. http://www.SavingSchools.org

  3. I’ll remind everyone that the original plans for the mostly unloved “common core” BS my son went through in school where they didn’t even teach the kids long division also came from the U of R math education department (Ralph Raimi) in part. If you’re not a fan of “write out 7 ways to make the number 7 using dots” as a method of learning math I’d be wary of this sort of thing. The U of R has a habit of pushing untested educational programs onto Rochester schools then “studying” the results – for better or worse – on the kids. I’d be wary of yet another attempt at this.

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