The fast-growing fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are providing opportunities for well-paying jobs for millions of U.S. workers. Community colleges play an essential role in helping students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to join the STEM economy, especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and first-generation students. For example, millions of community college students are currently enrolled in developmental math classes to prepare for college-level classes such as calculus, a critical requirement in a STEM-focused degree. But very few of these students will make it to and enroll in the courses that lead to a STEM degree. This includes a disproportionate number of students of color, who are overrepresented in but less likely to pass developmental-level courses; and women, who are underrepresented in college-level math courses despite passing developmental-level courses at higher rates than men.
In recent years, several organizations have been focusing on improving underserved students’ access to and success in STEM majors or areas of study. In 2019, MDRC partnered with one of these groups, Growth Sector, to study the implementation of the organization’s STEM Core program at three community colleges: Ohlone College and Santa Ana College in California, and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland.
STEM Core aims to build student engagement and interest in STEM-based careers through an academic, yearlong program that (1) accelerates the completion of developmental and college-level math courses; (2) emphasizes the real-world context in STEM curricula and instruction; (3) creates a cohort-based learning community for students; (4) provides intensive student supports; and (5) provides paid internship opportunities. Growth Sector’s overall STEM Core network currently includes more than 30 institutions across five states. This brief, which was supported by Arnold Ventures, provides a summary of lessons learned from MDRC’s implementation study that can further inform the work that college leaders, practitioners, and other STEM education stakeholders are doing to make STEM programs more inclusive and responsive to the interests and needs of a diverse student population.
Read the full article about STEM inclusion by Oscar Cerna, Marco Lepe, and Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow at MDRC.
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