Friday, November 28, 2008

Good idea or meeting a need that shouldn't exist?

Today's paper has a interesting article about a National Science Foundation five-year research project called SETGO, Science, Engineering, and Technology Gateway Ohio.

The program includes a five-week summer “bridge” program at Owens to help get students prepared for college-level math and science and bolster interest in the subjects.

Some of the grant money will pay for the students’ tuition and fees during the summer course. As an incentive, they’ll get a $1,000 bonus upon completion.
...
The bridge program is modeled off a successful initiative at BGSU that encourages women and minorities to pursue careers in math and science called AIMS, or Academic Investment in Math and Science.

The second component of the SETGO program is an academic-year learning community in Bowling Green called Art of Science Community.

The idea is to gather students, faculty, and staff from across the science and math disciplines on a regular basis for interaction.
...
The SETGO program’s final piece includes research opportunities for the students to work in a campus laboratory.

The students will do hands-on work and be paid $3,500 for their summer job as a researcher for 10 weeks.

Although the program stresses that a degree in the sciences doesn’t have to translate into lab research, leaders say the experience will be worthwhile.

I like it - I think it's creative, innovative and - with the involvement of the Universities - hopefully highly successful.

But then the questions start, like 'why do we need summer classes to prepare students for science and math at the college level'? Isn't that what our high schools are supposed to do?

According to CollegeBoard.com, as many as 40% of college students will take at least one remedial class while in college. Why? Because they are unprepared.

Recognizing this, universities and foundations have stepped in to address the situation - with programs like this.

In Ohio, the Board of Regents has been increasing their support of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies, with five STEM high schools across the state. Again, that's good. But why aren't there more? And if a STEM-focused education is so critical, why aren't we doing it in all schools, or offering it as an alternative educational track?

The answer is not easy to discern, but part of the problem will be the lack of qualified instructors to actually teach such courses, so hopefully the focus will also be on modifying the curriculum for teachers-to-be. Additionally, it's the focus on all non-related educational things (like self-esteem, social awareness and cultural diversity), that reduce the amount of time students get being taught things that schools should be teaching.

So while I'm glad for the program, I'm sad that it's needed, especially when our tax dollars are, in many ways, paying for both the problem - and the proposed solution.

4 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

I too have mixed feeling about this program. While I am happy to see that students are getting the help that they need to move forward into college, I have to ask if it is possible to give them in a few weeks what they didn't get in 12 years of education leading up to college.

Forget what we might think about the value of public education, what does this say about what colleges think about it? In fact, perhaps a better question still is what they plan to do to help the education system (whose teachers they themselves educate) do to make such programs unnecessary in the future.

skeeter1107 said...

"Mixed Feelings" are a good description of how I see this.

In spite of what seems to be a beneficial program, there are certain questions I'm left with.

1. What can they do in a summer program that couldn't be done in 12 years of education?

2. Could we send the bill for this program to the school systems that have graduates involved in this program? Look...you didn't give us our money's worth.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I like it if the students pay a significant portion (40,50%?) to get in, and then another significant portion, like skeeter said, comes from the school district.

We need to move from a system where we could hope and pray that the single school we provide for kids is equal to all the others (oops) to a system where more options provide for more choices. If parents are paying for at least a portion of their kids' schooling, they're going to take a more invested interest in what they are paying for.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

I remember particularly a sawed off, always cross nun with an attitude trying her darnedest to POUND advanced algebra into my thick skull.

Thinking back on this, it might have had something to do with her approach...

A teacher that can make learning anything interesting is a treasure with a true gift.

That, to me, is the secret.

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