II. Introduction

The Problem

There is evidence that a significant number of students in Michigan may not be acquiring the basic science and math skills needed to compete in the labor market or to take advantage of higher education opportunities, as measured by their performance on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program and High School Proficiency tests. In 1996–97, 61% of fourth graders and 51% of seventh graders performed satisfactorily in math and 53% of eleventh graders were considered proficient at math. In science, the statistics are even worse: only 27% of fifth graders, 22% of eighth graders, and 39% of eleventh graders were rated proficient.

Technical knowledge and skills, however, are gateways to higher education and well-paying careers. Lack of math and science skills may ultimately lead to poverty, crime, unemployment, and public assistance dependency, creating a debilitating impact on both the individual and society.

The Solution

It has become a cliché, but it truly does take an entire village to raise children. Raising and educating our children for productive adulthood is arguably a community's primary responsibility, yet we are no longer fulfilling this responsibility, for a host of well-known and interlocking reasons. We believe that a conscious attempt to re-create learning communities is the only solution. We aim, through learning community coalitions, to help all members of the "village" find their natural roles in the collective enterprise of supporting children's learning.

The CUOS mission for K–12 and Community Outreach is to support community coalitions in order to provide educational opportunities in science and mathematics for all children. CUOS has designed its outreach goals to

  1. promote systemic educational reform by helping communities build coalitions to leverage and link science and mathematics educational resources and career information for all children;
  2. ensure all children have access to hands-on and discovery-based learning experiences promoting scientific and mathematical literacy; and
  3. provide all children opportunities to explore careers within science, mathematics, technology, and engineering fields.

In the fall of 1995, the Outreach Program helped to form the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition, an umbrella organization intended to pursue the same goals in a collaborative way. The learning community coalition model offers a structure for bringing together everyone with a stake in K–12 student outcomes to support young people both individually and collectively. Its most powerful aspect may lie in participants' acknowledgment of their personal responsibility for children, rather than in any particular accomplishments. Simply providing children with more contact with responsible adults may be the most important thing we can—and must—do. We can no longer stand by like witnesses to a slow-motion train wreck and bemoan the shortcomings of parents or teachers, the inadequacy of families or schools, the laziness or irresponsibility of children. Each of us has a direct, personal responsibility to try to improve the situation; a coalition helps each of us find a suitable way to contribute to solutions.

We cannot, of course, determine whether we have in fact been instrumental in improving the math or science achievement level of specific young people or in attracting more of them to technical career fields. We deliberately do not attempt to gather anything resembling hard data designed to imply either achievement. Even if we were able to show improved test scores or grades, we have no control group and we know that our influence can only be one of many. We hope to have a positive effect but do not presume to take credit for one. Instead, we have chosen, in terms of program evaluation, to attempt to document exposure to opportunities: we may not know the end result, but we can measure some of the experiences we have made available to children and teens. Accordingly, we developed the following objectives to assess the potential impact and influence of the Coalition. To what extent did we

  1. Increase exposure to hands-on learning experiences,
  2. Increase exposure to career exploration opportunities,
  3. Directly support children's learning, or
  4. Provide wide access to coalition resources?

Stakeholders

CUOS and the Coalition operate under the premise that systemic change will not occur unless it includes and involves all individuals who have a "stake" in its efforts. To date, 151 partner organizations (several with multiple participants) represent and include stakeholders from K–12 and higher education, parent groups, government, business, and community, educational, and nonprofit organizations (see Appendix A). These partners provide science camps, workshops, career exploration resources, hands-on science lessons and activities, and extension information for further exploration of scientific topics or career fields. In addition, more than 500 volunteers from the University of Michigan (UM) community have been recruited and supported by Reach Out! (a student organization formed in January 1997) to directly service children in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas in science clubs and tutor/mentor programs.

1998 Progress Report
I. Executive Summary
II. Introduction
  A. The Problem
  B. The Solution
III. Program Implementation
  A. Organization and Management
  B. Systemic Initiatives to Build School-Centered Learning Communities
  C. Coalition Web Site
  D. Reach Out! Student Organization
  E. Math-Science Tutor/Mentoring Programs
  F. Science Outreach Programs
  G. Coalition Building and Stakeholder Development
IV. Conclusion
Appendix A: Coalition Partners List
Appendix B: Web-Site Home Page

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