How schools are working to reduce the STEM gap for black students

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How schools are working to reduce the STEM gap for black students

Getting black students more involved in STEM programs is a critical step in reducing the achievement gap, along with disparities in career preparation and pay, that has existed for decades, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

A 2021 Pew Research Center report notes that Black students gained only 7 percent of STEM majors in 2018, and a post-pandemic analysis by McKinsey found that in math, “students in majority black schools are now 12 months behind their peers in majority-white schools.

DeLean Tolbert Smith, an assistant professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Industrial Systems Engineering at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, experienced this gap firsthand. As an undergraduate engineering student at UM-Dearborn, he didn’t see as many black colleagues as he expected.

“There are issues like systemic racism that lead to inequalities in education,” he says. “In my own research, I realized that the key to educational success is engaging families. Schools need to really understand the families they serve and develop programs that align with their everyday needs, values ​​and practices.”

Minecraft Lab brings excitement to math, science and coding

Initially, Ebri, who is also a doctoral student, did not consider herself a player, but when she got the opportunity to lead the minecraft lab at DCPS, he took a chance. He even changed the subject of his doctoral thesis to game-based learning.

She wants teachers to know that games can change students’ lives. “Every time a group comes in, they’re excited to learn and I’m excited to teach,” she says.

Nadine Ebri, a technology innovation specialist at Duval County (Fla.) Public Schools, runs the district’s Minecraft lab. Video by Ryan Wendler

Conceived and designed by District CIO Jim Culbert, the lab is equipped with 30 lenovo legion Gaming PCs. “They have a little more power to them. Even the mouse lights up with neon lights,” says Holly Lanham, director of technology innovation for DCPS. “It’s completely immersive, from the music to the sound. When the kids walk in, they feel like they’re in another world.”

Two large monitors mounted on the walls are used for modeling and teaching. Instructors use the LanSchool learning management software to remotely manage student PCs during lessons. Within Minecraft, lessons include math, science, and coding aligned to next-generation science standards (both block-based and Python-based). Each year, about 1,000 students from across the district visit the lab on field trips. Ebri, Lanham and district leaders plan to expand the program to reach more students.

RELATED: Mobile STEM labs provide science, technology, engineering, and math lessons to students.

When field trip slots do open, “they fill up in minutes,” says Lanham. The district intends to open another lab and allocate resources for additional professional development. Student feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Additionally, Ebri says students are so excited to learn that they independently choose to challenge themselves with difficult tasks or ask for a pencil and paper to solve a complex problem.

“After this, they can go to a DCPS computer science-focused high school, where they can earn credentials and certifications even before they graduate.”

West Philadelphia School Students Repair Chromebooks

In the school district of philadelphiawhere 52 percent of the population of nearly 200,000 students is black, a multitude of STEM programs serve students in all grades.

One of the most notable is at West Philadelphia High School. Career and technical education instructor Marie Wilkins-Walker developed a chrome book repair shop in his class, and CTE students now repair up to 60 Chromebooks across the school district weekly.

As the school handed out devices one by one during the pandemic, his students began making minor repairs to Chromebooks throughout the school. Wilkins-Walker met with SDP CIO Melanie Harris to discuss her achievements.

“When I found out that the CTE teacher wanted to make sure her students had opportunities in the world of technology, I reached out,” says Harris. “Marie and her students got down to business. I helped remove barriers. The program started with little projects here and there, like repairing a network jack, and has really grown since then.”

MORE ABOUT EDTECH: Districts partner with businesses to train tomorrow’s IT workforce.

Harris also worked closely with Wilkins-Walker to bring in district technicians to teach students technical skills and soft skills, showing them, by example, what professionalism and a workday look like.

“The technicians are wonderful and they are graduates of the district. They’re not much older than the students,” making them instant role models, says Wilkins-Walker.

Some students expanded their skill sets by creating TikTok videos on Chromebook care and repair. And last summer, others participated in a district-sponsored paid internship to repair Chromebooks and create resumes to showcase their expertise.

Wilkins-Walker says reaching students is key when starting a program like this.

“You’d be surprised what they have and what they know,” she says. “It’s empowering.”

Baltimore City Public Schools students prepare for cybersecurity careers

like sdp, Baltimore City Public Schools offers a wide range of programs designed to increase students’ exposure to STEM subjects and careers.

But this did not happen by accident. Kumasi Vines, the district’s director of career preparation, led a team that interviewed hundreds of parents, students and community members about how to better prepare students for high-skill, high-wage jobs. The result was a long-term strategic plan focused on building CTE programs.

The interview process also revealed that companies need more cybersecurity professionals, prompting Vines to reconfigure some CTE programs.

Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, students will be able to learn about cyber safety through courses in cisco.

“We’ve been offering the Cisco Networking Academy courses at eight schools, but we’re transitioning to cybersecurity,” says Vines. “If all goes well, students will graduate with a Cisco cybersecurity certification and diploma, which they can take to any employer.”

An important component of Vines’ strategy is partnering with various advisory committees and organizations that have members that students can relate to.

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