How to Get Kids Interested in STEM Fields
Black Enterprise Magazine Summer 2019 Issue

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Bank’s distractions began to dissolve as he became more motivated by SYNCERE’s Saturday engineering camp held at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “In a science class in school you wouldn’t build a robot or go through the steps to program it to go in circles, or talk for you, or tinker with circuits,” he says. “The hands-on learning of Project SYNCERE is what really got me into it.”

Increase the Quantity of Classes
If parents want to ensure that a career in science is a viable option for their child, they need to assess the number and type of science classes offered to their child in school.  “In order to build a pipeline of African American students in STEM disciplines, it is critical to address the educational disadvantages in our K—12 system. Even if kids are already motivated, I found they needed to put in a lot more work to catch up with their peers,” explains Magloire.

The PISA/OECD report found that the average resilient student–defined as one who succeeds against the odds–engaged in a larger number of courses than the average disadvantaged low achiever.

As a school consultant helping schools develop rigorous science and math enrichment programs, Magloire found that some textbooks are outdated at elementary schools in many underrepresented neighborhoods. In high schools, Magloire has observed that many minority schools started freshman students out in classes such as Earth science or forensics.  “It’s OK for an eighth grader or a middle schooler, but it should not be a class for a high school student who might pursue STEM in college,” she explains.

Increase the Quality of Classes
Oftentimes, students who are seemingly adept at STEM in high school are still not prepared for college-level coursework. Predominantly black high schools should prepare students who aspire to get a STEM college degree by offering more honors and Advanced Placement classes. Even if a student doesn’t “pass” an AP class with a score of three or more, the experience provides the student with the study skills and work ethic necessary to prepare him or her for college. Also, few African American students realize that colleges don’t require an AP grade for admission, yet they look at students who take an AP class more positively, says Magloire.

African Americans represented 14.7% of the total public high school graduating class last year, but made up 4.1% of the AP student population who earned a score of three or better on at least one exam, according to the College Board’s AP Report to the Nation. Furthermore, 59.8% of all students who take AP exams get a passing score of three or higher. That number drops to 27% for African Americans. “That means we’re really behind if we’re using [AP scores] as a benchmark,” Magloire says.

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