The Dallas-based National Math and Science Initiative is wrapping up the second of a two-week virtual conference with almost 5,000 educators logging in from around the country.
NMSI’s 2020 “Summer Series” replaced the nonprofit’s in-person “Summer Institutes” that have been going on in Dallas and around the country for more than 10 years.
“We started offering a blend of in-person and online services a few years ago and have been moved toward more virtual delivery,” said NMSI CEO Dr. Bernard Harris. “COVID-19 forced us to accelerate our plans, and I couldn’t be prouder of our program design and delivery teams for pulling this off on an incredibly short timetable.”
Harris said that while in-person events allow teachers to more easily network and experience hands-on training, online training gives educators more flexibility and eliminates the need for hotels, catering and other expenses. NMSI is facilitating online networking and will provide expanded training through the 2020-21 school year.
“We used to hold teacher trainings three times a year,” Harris said. “Now we will offer training year-round and on-demand.”
NMSI is among the largest Advanced Placement® training organizations. It also supports district and campus leaders and non-AP® teachers so they can prepare more students for the rigors of advanced courses, college, the military and other careers, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math. The organization’s mission is to expand access and achievement in STEM education to help diversify the STEM workforce and contribute to equity and inclusion across all fields and communities.
“Jobs in STEM are growing faster than other fields and they pay better,” said Harris, a medical doctor and veteran astronaut. “Increasing diversity in those fields benefits everyone, particularly communities under-represented in those fields.”
Harris said STEM education also builds skills like critical-thinking, problem-solving and collaboration; skills that transfer across all jobs and are sorely needed to improve national security, personal prosperity and social justice.
In addition to courses to hone their content knowledge, educators participating in NMSI’s Summer Series are getting new lessons to make learning more relevant and fun for students, working on course pacing and – most importantly – learning best practices for online teaching. In all, there are more than 500 hours of real-time and recorded sessions available to participating educators.
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“My instructors take their time and teach the lessons in an organized way, which provides me with ideas on how I should incorporate these methodologies in my classroom,” said LaToya Smith, AP Biology teacher at Cedar Hill Early College Academy in Texas.
Harris said transitioning from regional, in-person events to a national, online conference did not affect participation.
“Educators who know NMSI know they are always going to receive engaging sessions and material that they can put to work immediately in their classes,” he said. “The principals and counselors know they can immediately put to work what they learn and then continue to use those lessons to sustain positive changes in their schools.”
Schools that participate in NMSI’s flagship College Readiness Program see significant increases in AP course enrollment, particularly among Black, Latino and female students. They also see above-average increases in college readiness and mastery of college-level concepts, across all student groups.
“With the NMSI partnership, I’ve seen the culture and belief system shift from the few that can pass AP exams to a college-for-all mentality, where everybody believes they have the opportunity to pass the tests,” said Superintendent Ricardo López of Garland ISD in Texas. “A lot of it is just strategic structure in the partnership with NMSI and seeing that their own peers that not necessarily would have been in an AP program getting those 3s, 4s and 5s [passing AP exam scores]. Seeing is believing. When they see kids that are like them in this program, they realize it’s not just for a selected few. It’s for everyone.”
Earlier this year, NMSI transitioned its AP student study supports from in-person to online. The organization leveraged previous experience in online study supports to shift hundreds of events in a matter of two weeks.
More than 1,500 U.S. high schools have participated in NMSI’s College Readiness Program, and more than 65,000 teachers from grades 3-12 have participated in NMSI training. Nearly all schools participate through grants from such organizations as the ExxonMobil Foundation, Texas Instruments Foundation and the Toyota USA Foundation. The Defense STEM Education Consortium, a project of the U.S. Department of Defense, supports NMSI programming at base schools and public schools that teach significant numbers of military-dependent students. The U.S. Department of Education provides grants that support rural, urban and other high-need communities.
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