Funds to support STEM learning in low-income schools

Funds to support STEM learning in low-income schools

(Calif.) Long considered the pathway to high-paying jobs in the tech industry, STEM curriculum has also often been difficult to access at low-income schools.

Assembly Bill 252, authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would create a grant program to bring Advanced Placement course options in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, to underserved schools in order to increase participation by low-income and minority students in these subjects.

“Increasing access to AP courses in the STEM fields, especially for underrepresented and minority students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take these courses, ensures that California’s workforce will be diverse and well-prepared for the technological developments that spur our economy,” Holden said.

The ultimate push to get students involved in these subjects came upon finding that the United States ranked 25th in mathematics and 17th in science among industrialized nations according to a 2012 report published by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

In the President’s 2015 budget proposal, approximately $340 million was dedicated to improve access to and teaching STEM subjects.

Holden’s bill would establish an AP STEM Access Grant program to provide up to $8,000 for each school to establish these courses in high schools where students typically underrepresented in these fields have shown the potential to thrive in them.

In order to meet the criteria to establish these courses through the grant, schools must:

  • Identify the students with AP potential and who have not already been offered advanced placement courses in any of the STEM curriculum areas;
  • Identify those students using any means schools deem appropriate, such as a student’s scores on a preliminary SAT;
  • Already offer AP STEM classes, but those courses must be sufficiently impacted; and
  • No later than July 1, 2021, the superintendent and College Board must submit a report indicating the number of students who attained access to AP STEM courses during the period of the grant program to the Legislature.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will have a shortfall of 1 million college graduates by 2025. Research suggests that many of the students not participating in STEM fields are minorities.

California State University, Sacramento released a study in 2009 which showed nearly 59 percent of the state’s African-American students who could participate in AP STEM courses did not. Fifty-eight percent of Native American and Alaska native students, 55 percent of Hispanic and Latino students, and 41 percent of female students followed that same pattern.

The bill could potentially provide that option to students questioning whether or not to further their education after high school.

AB 252 will be heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 22.