University of Pittsburgh’s Broadening Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Center (BE STEM Center) is now an accredited learning services provider, a designation that will advance the multidisciplinary center’s mission to increase equity and diversity in STEM. Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS) has granted the credential in recognition of BE STEM’s adherence to equitable, peer-reviewed standards that promote educational excellence.
BE STEM’s accreditation is part of the center’s role as anchor for The STEM PUSH Network, a National Science Foundation funded initiative that aims to broaden access and opportunity in STEM for Black, Latina/o/e and Indigenous students through the formation of a national network of Pre-College STEM Programs (PCSPs). Network partners develop, test, and implement equity centered, evidence-based practices for effective programming for students with the ultimate goal of changing how these experiences are factored into college admissions decisions and enable long-term student success.
Working with MSA-CESS, BE STEM and The STEM PUSH Network plan to develop an equity-centered accreditation model for PCSPs that will take into account the rigorous educational experiences and STEM skills students get from these programs. The goal is for such experiences to factor heavily into admission decisions for underrepresented students applying to STEM programs at colleges and universities. STEM PUSH is creating an evidence-based credential that we hope will change the way admissions accounts for OST academic achievement.
Principal Investigator Alison Slinskey Legg said PCSP experience is currently under-recorded in higher education admissions, and the accreditation of these programs will help level the playing field for many students.
“PCSPs are at the forefront of educational innovation, and are powerful resources for community-based knowledge. Our partners share a commitment to serving Black, Latina/o/e and Indigenous students, and making the students’ participation in these programs count will go a long way in broadening access and opportunity in STEM” she said.
BE STEM’s decision to partner with MSA-CESS was driven by its recognition of the potential to develop a novel accreditation system for these programs, one that prioritizes equity. As an objective evaluation of performance, accreditation plays a crucial role in assuring and enhancing educational quality.
The STEM PUSH Network unites more than 40 programs from across the country in the development, testing, and implementation of educational programming to foster relevant STEM competencies in students. The project uses improvement science, an applied, problem-solving approach that applies measurable changes in order to improve teaching and learning.
The researchers are also studying the role that PCSP participation plays in student success in STEM, and once the accreditation for PCSPs is complete, the team will study the effect of accreditation of the programs on admissions. Slinskey Legg says this work has taken on a new urgency as The US Supreme Court has ruled against race conscious admissions practices.
“From the recent Varsity Blues scandals, to a national reckoning over how standardized practices contribute to biased gatekeeping, and now, the ruling from The Supreme Court, we are in the midst of a much-needed conversation about who gets into college and what can be done to make the process equitable. We strongly believe that PCSPs are an under-recognized voice in this conversation and that together we can effect positive change and broaden access and opportunity for Black, Latina/o/e and Indigenous students,” she said.
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The STEM PUSH Network, an NSF INCLUDES Alliance, is working to leverage the power of pre-college STEM programs (PCSPs) to broaden participation of Black, Latina/o/e, and Indigenous students in STEM, and, together with its partners, create systemic change in higher education admissions.
The STEM PUSH Network is funded by The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Initiative, a comprehensive national effort to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in STEM at scale. STEM PUSH is also co-funded by the NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program and the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.