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Adding Math, Science To 'Other-than-School' Programs for Kids
As reported by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) "Science and Engineering Indicators 2000," the percentage of white students performing at higher levels of mathematics on the 1996 National Assessment of Education Progress was 69%, while black students reached only 31% and Hispanics about 40%.
In an effort to help overcome this dramatic inequity, the AAAS Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate held a working conference in Baltimore on 4-6 June to discuss how this problem might be resolved through programs both in and out of school. The initiative is part of the EHR Directorate's ongoing effort to develop model programs that target teachers, students and families, as well as communities and educational institutions. The goal is to increase the participation of minorities, women, and people with disabilities in science, mathematics, and technology education.
"We have a moral obligation to ensure that every child is prepared to meet the challenges that he or she will face, that is the promise of America, that every child has the chance to pursue the full limits of his or her God-given talents, " said keynote speaker Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Maryland and an advocate of after-school programs. "In the final analysis, it doesn't matter how we close the achievement gap, so long as we do it, and that we must do."
More than 200 people gathered at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, among them representatives from schools, community groups and funding agencies from all over the nation. They discussed guidelines and ideas for establishing and supporting out-of-school programs with strong scientific and mathematical components. They heard how programs have used television and other media to increase interest in math and science among young people. Although speakers at the conference recounted success stories, they also spoke of the obstacles -- difficulties encountered in developing, implementing and evaluating programs, as well as the challenges of obtaining funding.
Pat Campbell, president of Campbell-Kibler Associates, spoke about "The Challenge to Program Research and Evaluation." She also chaired a session focusing on how to assess out-of-school programs, discussing ways in which these programs could succeed, and how a school or community's goals and expectations could have a positive impact on children's math and science knowledge.
"Decisions are being made as we speak as early as 5th grade about the math and science that kids will be taking, particularly the math," Campbell said. "If your programs don't address the issues of interest in math and math decision-making for kids and parents early enough, those decisions will be made. It is not impossible, but it is very difficult to unmake them."
In a panel entitled "Media-based Mathematics," Joel Schneider, Vice President for Education and Research, Sesame Workshop, demonstrated how television programs that focus on math and science, such as 3-2-1 Contact and Square One, can serve as an educational tool for children in out-of school programs. By understanding the gaps in what children know about math and science, Schneider said, out-of-school programs could bridge the gap by incorporating media into their curriculum.
In addition to individual and panel presentations, small group sessions focused on analyzing specific out-of-school programs. Participants used a checklist developed by EHR staff to analyze programs such as AAAS's Kinetic City, a web site designed to improve children's knowledge of math and science concepts. The conference agenda included field trips to after-school programs, one conducted by the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and the other at Pleasant View Gardens, part of an initiative run by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Baltimore Urban Systemic Initiative, a school-university-community partnership that that is based at Morgan State University.
A report on the conference proceedings will be produced, as well as a "listserv" for participants and others interested in receiving information about math and science programs that can be used in other-than-school settings, and strategies for implementing and assessing those programs. The conference was supported by a grant from NSF with additional funding from Casio and Texas Instruments.
The conference organizers included Shirley M. Malcom, AAAS's Education and Human Resources Head, Madeleine J. Long, program Director, AAAS, and Jonathan Wilson, Program Director, Baltimore Urban Systemic Initiative. For more information, email EHRWebmaster@aaas.org.
-- Nisha Narayanan