Report: Improving Latino Access To STEM Through The America COMPETES Act"
|LOS ANGELES — For transfer rates to improve, colleges and universities must dramatically reshape how science and mathematics is taught, according to a report released by the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education (CUE). In addition, National Science Foundation funding should be directed towards research and experimental programming that involves new pedagogies and curriculum in mathematics education.
The report, called “Improving Transfer Access to STEM Bachelor’s Degrees at Hispanic Serving Institutions through the America COMPETES Act,” was the primary focus of a conference call co-hosted by The Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure California produces one million additional college graduates between now and 2025 to meet the workforce demands of the future.
The report is available here:http://cue.usc.edu/news/CUE%20STEM%20Brief%202_America%20COMPETES_Mar%202010%20%28Version%20A%29.pdf
The recommendations in the report emphasize that faculty from community colleges and four-year universities should be brought together to plan and implement curricular innovations.
“In California, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, we are losing far too many Latino and Latina community college students to what is undeniably a long, drawn out, skills based remedial mathematics curriculum,” said Dr. Alicia C. Dowd, Co-Director for the Center for Urban Education and an Associate Professor of Higher Education. “We need a fundamentally new approach.”
The report also highlights the need to expand access for Latino transfer students to bachelor’s degrees in biological and environmental sciences and in engineering. HSIs outperform non-HSIs in terms of awarding transfer students bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics and STEM-related fields, which include health sciences and science education. However, non-HSIs grant a higher proportion of bachelor’s degrees in Engineering and in Biological, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to transfer students than do HSIs.
“The America COMPETES Act provides important resources to four-year Hispanic-serving institutions, enabling them to improve transfer access in all STEM fields, but particularly in Engineering and the Biological and Environmental Services,” said Dr. Lindsey Malcom, one of the report’s researchers and an assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, identifies several reasons why an opportunity gap exists in regards to Latinos in STEM fields. The report’s researchers say it has nothing to do with Latinos’ lack of aspirations. Rather, much of it is due to lack of funding directed at HSIs. Although 40% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latinos in all fields of study are granted by HSIs, only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latinos in STEM fields are from HSIs. This is important to note because HSIs have been chronically underfunded in the distribution of federal STEM research dollars. This has limited their capacity to offer the undergraduate research opportunities that are known to attract and retain students in the sciences, according to the report.
At West Los Angeles College, an HSI with a student population that is 30% Latino and 35% African-American, creating an environment that is conducive to STEM fields is critical to their mission, said Dr. Rocha, the president of the community college. Earlier this month, they opened a state-of-the-art, university level math and science building.
“Definitely for us math, math, math is the big hurdle,” said Dr. Rocha. “We could do two things to attract Latino students to STEM fields. One is to go out to the high schools and recruit the best and the brightest because there are able Latino students in our high schools who are already college level students and come in and do excellent work. But most of our students, about 70% of them, come in without college level math skills. If we’re going to have any traction here, we’re going to really have to reinvent our approach to math education.”
Rocha said they also aim to diversify their faculty.
“We need to be innovative about how we create a conducive, cultural environment,” he said. “We don’t have enough Latino teachers of math and science here at my college so we need to find innovative ways to bring them in so that students can see themselves in role models.”
The panelists on the conference call were: Michele Siqueiros, Campaign for College Opportunity Executive Director; Dr. Dowd; Dr. Lindsey E. Malcom, Assistant Professor at the University of California, Riverside and a USC alum; Dr. Mark W. Rocha, President of West Los Angeles College and Jennifer Cano, Director of Education Programs, Great Minds in STEM.
About the Center for Urban Education
Established at the University of Southern California in 1999 as part of the University's urban initiative, the Center for Urban Education (CUE) leads socially conscious research and develops tools needed for institutions of higher education to produce equity in student outcomes. It is housed at the USC Rossier School of Education.
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