STEM Initiative Spotlight: Interview with National Math and Science Initiative

NMSI’s mission is to improve student performance in the critical subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). NMSI’s programs transform teaching, transform schools and are transforming education in the United States.

We talked to Gregg Fleisher, Chief Academic Officer for NMSI, to find out more about the initiative and what’s they’re doing to pursue that mission.

There’s a shortage of women in STEM careers; what is your organization’s unique role in addressing this issue?

Proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is crucial to our country’s ability to remain competitive in the global economy of the 21st century. This means that all students, no matter what their financial circumstances, race or gender, have access to the rigorous coursework, training and support needed to be successful in STEM. The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is committed to both expanding access to, and achievement in STEM subjects among traditionally under-represented students, including females who today fill close to half of all American jobs but hold less than 25% of STEM jobs.

NMSI’s comprehensive three-year College Readiness Program, focused on boosting achievement in Advanced Placement coursework in math and science, is having a dramatic effect on the success of young women in these subjects: The first-year increase in the number of qualifying AP math and science exam scores (scores of 3 or higher on a 5-point scale) among female high school students participating in the program is more than 10 times the national average. Success in these courses is inspiring more young women to matriculate into STEM majors and gradate in STEM fields.

What have you discovered to be effective in helping connect girls and women to STEM studies and careers?

Three factors that help connect female students to STEM include increased exposure to STEM subjects and the breadth of STEM-related career opportunities, actively engaging students in the classroom through hands-on teaching approaches that inspire critical thinking and problem solving, and encouragement and support from professional women mentors.

What milestones have you already reached or are you currently moving towards?

NMSI is dramatically increasing the number of female students prepared for STEM college classes and careers. Last year, there were approximately 215,000 girls in public schools earning a qualifying score on an AP math or science exam. NMSI’s goal is to have 700,000 young women earning qualifying scores in AP math and science by 2025.

How can schools, professional organizations and companies work together to empower women entering STEM?

Per question #2 above, schools, professional organizations and companies can work together to increase girls’ exposures to STEM training and opportunities; provide teachers with training and resources to increase student engagement in their classrooms; and encourage more professional women to serve as mentors to girls and young women who are interested in STEM but may lack the academic preparation, skills and/or other support they need to persevere with challenging coursework.

Is there anything additional you’d like to add?

Introducing high school students to a rigorous curriculum, particularly in STEM subjects, is a critical component to preparing them for future success. NMSI is making measurable, sustainable and scalable progress in improving college and career readiness among our nation’s students, with an emphasis on women and minorities who have been traditionally under-represented in STEM fields.

Check out our full feature piece, 15 Innovative Initiatives Bringing Women Into STEM as well as the National Math and Science Initiative website.

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