Power of Partnerships: Getting More Latino Students into STEM Fields

column | Diversity and Equity

Power of Partnerships: Getting More Latino Students into STEM Fields

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Jul 17, 2014

Power of Partnerships: Getting More Latino Students into STEM Fields

At the annual California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) Summer Institute, STEM discussions took center stage. But it wasn’t just because of the “STEAMing Towards the Digital Age” conference theme. Today, CALSA and STEM education nonprofit JASON Learning announced an exciting partnership designed to get more Latino and Latina students engaged in STEM fields.

JASON sponsors The Jason Project (TJP), a platform that provides Next Generation Science Standards-aligned supplemental STEM curriculum for 5th-8th grade students in the form of “missions” and real-world projects," and announced today that it will offer a 77% platform discount for all 1,200 CALSA members. Specifically, the $13/student price has been lowered to $3/student.

“We are extremely excited about this partnership. One of our missions is to provide equity and access to underserved students in California,” says CALSA Board of Directors president, Jose Gonzalez. “This platform will also help expose those gaps, especially with with Latino and Latina students.”

For the $3/student price, students get access to all of TJP’s videos, articles and activities (think digital roller coaster creators and a hurricane path prediction activity) while teachers can choose from a variety of lesson plans and other resources, many featuring the contributions of working scientists from organizations like NASA and the US Department of Energy. JASON's Director of Educational Partnerships, Lee Charlton, also calls attention to the platform’s “Read to Me” tool where students can have information read outloud to them, and points to its helpfulness in differentiating for English Language Learners.

“We want to give you content where you’re at,” Charlton says. “We want to close the achievement gap across all learners.”

But why now? CALSA representatives are no stranger to the dearth in Latino and Latina presence in computing, engineering, and mathematical fields, according to Gonzalez. And despite the current existence of 1.5 million Latino and Latina students in California alone, research shows that those students--especially Latina students--are failing to meet their true potential.

“The Gurian Institute conducted a study fifty years ago where they found that only 23 percent of Latino mechanical engineers are females. Guess what? They found that it’s still only 23 percent now,” Gonzalez shared. “It was alarming to see the data, and in having conversations with our planning committee; I knew we needed to do something with STEM.”

After a chance encounter between Tom Davis, CALSA’s Director of Corporate Partnerships and Charlton, and a partnership was born. “The Jason Project has already won a bunch of awards, and works well with kids of color and kids of poverty,” Davis shares.

“I felt that we had a moral imperative,” Gonzalez adds. “We saw that there's a need to move from proficiency to mastery in Latino communities. Over the last 2-3 years, we've put a high focal point on [STEM], understanding it. Now, we’re really trying to focus on it… and we want to provide good opportunities to our CALSA membership.”

Interested in learning about the program’s offerings? Visit The Jason Project website for more.

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