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UMBC and local schools partner to support STEM programs

Thanks to funding from the Sherman family, the Sherman Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Teacher Scholars Program at UMBC has been able to work with schools and teachers in the Baltimore area in order to “promote student achievement and engagement in STEM,” as stated on the program’s website. The program has been successful in recent years and was featured on both WYPR radio station in Baltimore and the Baltimore Sun paper.

One of the main focuses of the program is to give elementary and middle school students more individualized attention that they would not otherwise receive. This is especially important because Maryland as a whole had low rates of passing scores in the PARCC exam last year: 15 percent for the English section and nearly 12 percent for the math section; in Baltimore, the numbers are even lower. In one of the schools, Lakeland Elementary and Middle School, nine out of ten seventh-graders, among other grades, failed the PARCC test in 2016.

Sherman scholars, those from UMBC teaching and assisting in the schools, have a set of five “Student Learning Outcomes” that they must meet. For one, scholars must “demonstrate competence and confidence in applying for a teaching position in an urban and/or high-needs school with a focus in Baltimore.” This is particularly important for lower income communities including Baltimore, which often lack adequate resources in order to teach students and give them as much attention as they need.

Two other goals have to do with engagement and building relationships with students, their families and the school community as a whole. Scholars are not only there for their required hours and to teach their concepts from a distance. The program expects scholars to become more involved with the people to build connections and integrate themselves into the school culture.

Lakeland, the school on which the program is focusing currently, did see a positive change in students’ test scores since the partnership has begun. The seventh-graders saw an increase in passing rates from less than seven percent in 2016 to nearly 18 percent in 2017, and scores spiked from 19 percent to more than 43 percent from 2016 to 2017 in fourth-graders.

The vast majority of elementary (71 percent) and middle school students (86 percent) at Lakeland are still failing the standardized test, but teachers and staff at the school and through the co-op remain optimistic about what the future holds for their school. As UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski III says, “Some of these children one day should be able to come to UMBC and then go on to work at Northrop Grumman.”

Another program offered through the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program is called STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The former Lakeland Recreation Center is in the process of becoming “an environment where Lakeland students have access to academic enrichment and life-skills development, and Lakeland adults can further their education, workplace skills and health and well being.” In addition to what the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks offers at this location, it will now offer even more amenities, including more extensive hours, a room dedication for parents to gather for various occasions, a studio for sound and digital video, a multipurpose room to be used for health and wellness activities and a center for job training.

People interested in joining the Sherman Scholars program and encouraging elementary and middle school students to learn can go to the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program’s “Apply Now” page on their website. Eligible applicants include freshman through senior UMBC students, transfer students and more.