The Massachusetts economy relies upon a workforce of world-class science, technology, engineering, and math professionals. But every year thousands of promising young people – particularly black and Hispanic students, female students, and students from low-income families - leave high school without having taken the challenging courses required to succeed in these fields.
That’s a big potential economic problem for the commonwealth and its employers.
Now, there good news about the Mass Math + Science Initiative (MMSI) from Bill Guenther of Mass Insight. MMSI is an initiative to expand access and improve outcomes in college-level Advanced Placement high school courses, involving 46 public high schools across Massachusetts. AIM is a lead association partner of MMSI, one of six state programs under the National Math and Science Initiative.
The first piece of news is that an independent evaluation of MMSI found that it significantly increased participation and success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) AP courses and exams, especially among African American and Hispanic students.
Not only did MMSI schools have significantly increased numbers and percentages of AP math, science and English exams taken by students, in relation to the baseline year and to comparable schools, but they also had higher numbers and percentages of students scoring 3 or higher on the AP’s 1-5 scale. Such scores reflect measurable achievement and can lead to college credit and consequent tuition savings.
The evaluation found that African-American and Hispanic students in MMSI schools took nearly four times more math, science and English AP exams than their counterparts in other high need/low income schools. MMSI accounted for 36 percent of AP exams by African American and Hispanic students scoring 3 or better in Massachusetts, about twice the baseline rate.
The second piece of good news is a grant of $1 million over three years to MMSI from Thermo Fisher Scientific, a lead corporate sponsor of the initiative. This funding, an outstanding example of corporate philanthropy in support of a vital statewide cause, is especially critical at a time when government finances are stretched and foundations face many calls on their resources.
The Thermo Fisher award recognizes MMSI’s record of success as well as the need for expansion. The program evaluation projected that if all high-need/low-income schools in Massachusetts had an AP participation rate similar to MMSI schools, more than 1,000 additional AP exams would have been taken by African American and Hispanic students in 2010-11.
For more information, visit www.massinsight.org/mmsi.