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Program: A focused, 5-year effort to increase the number of African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), Native American (AHLN) 7th-grade students who are academically prepared to take algebra

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2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 13 - Paper 2: Program: A focused, 5-year effort to increase the number of African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), Native American (AHLN) 7th-grade students who are academically prepared to take algebra

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Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Virginia Lynn Booth-Womack Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE) Orcid 16x16

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Virginia received her B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a B.A. in Psychology while at Purdue University. She is currently the Director of Minority Engineering Programs in the College of Engineering. She assumed the position in 2004 after 18 years of manufacturing experience. Her last assignment was Lean Manufacturing Manager for the for the 3.7L and 4.7L Mack Engine facilities at Chrysler Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. Virginia has applied lean manufacturing concepts to identify and close the achievement gap between under-represented minority engineering students and the total engineering cohort. This was achieved focusing on first semester performance and first year retention through implementation of an aggressive transition program targeting first year engineering students from historically under-represented groups. She recently was called upon to serve as interim Executive Director for the National Society of Black Engineers from December 2013 through August 2014 during which time the organization experienced membership growth and strong metric focus towards goal attainment.

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Saundra Johnson Austin University of South Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Saundra Johnson Austin is the lead project coordinator at the University of South Florida for Florida Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (FL-AGEP) Transformation Alliance: Improving Pathways in the Professoriate for Minority Women in STEM. She is the project coordinator at the University of South Florida for Project Racism In School Exclusionary Suspensions (RISES), a mixed methods study that addresses the long-standing phenomenon of out-of-school suspensions for African American middle and high school adolescents. Dr. Johnson Austin also teaches math and pre-algebra to 7th grade girls and boys at Academy Prep Center of Tampa.

In 2007 she founded Charis Consulting Group, LLC as the President and CEO. Dr. Johnson Austin has held positions as: executive director of Curated PathwaysTM to Innovation in San Jose, CA; senior vice president for operations at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME); president and CEO of St. Michael’s High School; executive vice president of the Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning; executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science; and Minority Engineering Program director at The Pennsylvania State University. She began her career as a cost engineering at Bechtel Power Corporation.

In 1998, she was recognized with the National Society of Black Engineers’ (NSBE) Inaugural Golden Torch Award for Minority Engineering Program Director of the Year and Outstanding Contribution by a Minority Engineering Program Administrator Award by the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA). She was awarded the 2004-2005 Selected Professions Fellowship by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Since 2014, Dr. Johnson Austin is a member of the United States White House endorsed initiative Algebra by 7th Grade. In April 2015, she was recognized by The Pennsylvania State University as Outstanding Engineering Alumnus for Civil and Environmental Engineering and she currently serves on the College of Engineering’s Industrial and Professional Advisory Council (IPAC). Since July 2020, Dr. Johnson Austin is serving as the president of AAUW Tampa, Inc. In addition, she currently serves as Member-At-Large for American Association for Engineering Education Minorities In Engineering Division (ASEE MIND), a member of the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Advisory Committee for ‘Zero Barriers in STEM Education,’ and on the executive advisory board member for the Northeast STEM Starter Academy at Mount Vernon, NY.

Dr. Johnson Austin is a member of the editorial review board for the Caribbean Educational Research Journal (CERJ). She also served as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation’s CS for All Pathways, HBCU-Up, INCLUDES Conference and INCLUDES Launch Pilot.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California.

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Renee Serrell Gibert Purdue University

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Renee Gibert is a driven and accomplished educator who thrives on building foundational knowledge for students to achieve excellence. She is a National Board-Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Mathematics. Only 3% of the nation’s teachers have attained this prestigious certification. Also, she is also a certified Jump Start financial literacy teacher. Renee served as a mentor to teachers seeking National Board Certification for the Indiana Department of Education in 2017.
Her strength is analyzing data and using the results to modify instruction to meet the needs of special education and at-risk students. She is a former MATHCOUNTS coach and successfully led alternative education students to regional competitions in Upstate South Carolina for 4 years.
Moreover, Renee has utilized her skill set to develop engaging mathematics activities for grades 6-12. She has extensive knowledge in Common Core State Standards, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, and Literacy. Renee is founder of Get Lit Mathematics which infuses current events and culturally relevant pedagogy to teach math concepts.
The School District of Oconee County recognized Renee for excellence in teaching as the Code Academy Teacher of Year in 2013. While a teacher in South Carolina, Renee facilitated district level workshops on literacy and comprehension in mathematics, historical connections to mathematics, and effective middle grades math and Algebra 1 practices. She is dedicated outreach and advocacy. Additionally, she served as lead teacher and mathematics curriculum coordinator for the Tri County Technical College’s Upward Bound program. Renee also is an experienced virtual educator and has taught undergraduate statistics courses online.

Renee holds a B.S. Industrial Engineering and M.A.T in Middle Grades Mathematics Education from Clemson University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue.

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Carol S Stwalley P.E. Purdue University at West Lafayette (COE)

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Dr. Carol S. Stwalley, PE joined the Minority Engineering Program team in the fall of 2007 as Recruitment and Retention Analyst. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Biological Engineering (ABE), MSABE, and PhD ABE from Purdue University. Carol has more than 14 years in diversity work with considerable background working with the Women in Engineering Programs at Purdue. In her current capacity as Recruitment and Retention Analyst for the Minority Engineering Program and the Purdue Office of Institutional Assessment, Dr. Stwalley collects, analyzes and manages data pertaining to the outreach, recruitment, retention and graduation of engineering students from historically underrepresented groups.

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Lesley M Berhan The University of Toledo

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Lesley Berhan is currently the Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement for the College of Engineering and an Associate Professor in the department of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at The University of Toledo. Her research interests are in the areas of composites and fibrous materials and engineering education. She received her B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad, her M.S. in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She joined the faculty at the University of Toledo in 2004. As the Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement she leads the development and execution of initiatives and programs to facilitate the recruitment, retention, and success of women, students from underrepresented groups and first generation students. These duties are well aligned with her current research interests and external funding in engineering education.

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Tamara Markey Purdue University, Minority Engineering Program

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Tamara Markey is an innovative, passionate, and dynamic educator. She draws from and applies to her work in education nearly a decade of professional experience as an Engineer with Amoco Oil and BP Pipelines. Mrs. Markey is a Woodrow Wilson STEM Teaching Fellow and a certified Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Instructor. She has taught high school Pre-engineering and served as a STEM Instructional Coach in the Lawrence Township Metropolitan School District in Indiana.

Tamara presently teaches high school physics at Columbus Academy in Columbus, OH. Additionally, she works with the Purdue University Minority Engineering Program, championing an elementary-level math initiative designed to address performance gaps in mathematics for underrepresented students and increase minority interest and program eligibility in STEM majors.

Tamara was honored by Purdue University’s School of Industrial as a 2021 Outstanding Industrial Engineer for demonstrating exemplary achievements and leadership throughout her career. Additionally, she is the 2019 Teacher of the Year for the state of Indiana. Tamara holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and an M.S. in Engineering Technology Education, both from Purdue University.

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Cynthia Murphy-Ortega Chevron Corporation

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Cynthia Murphy-Ortega is currently Manager of University Partnerships and Association Relations of Chevron Corporation. Her organization manages Chevron’s relationships with universities and professional societies and institutes throughout the world. Cynthia joined Chevron in 1991 as an engineer with the Richmond Refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area. She held various engineering, maintenance, operations, financial, business planning and process safety management positions within the refinery.

Cynthia then went on to work in the technology arena with the Chevron Energy Technology Company in 1998. She developed and managed Chevron’s technical competency development programs for new hires in refining and exploration & production roles. She also worked in the Process Planning Group and performed process modeling on large-scale projects. In her role as Organizational Capability Manager with the Process, Analytical and Catalysis Dept, she supported technical competency management, staffing/recruitment, new hire and competency development, and business planning. Cynthia graduated from the University of California, Davis, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering.

Cynthia participates on various Boards and Committees in support of higher education and diversity, equity and inclusion -- including the Engineering Dean’s Advisory Committee, the Chemical Engineering Advisory Committee, the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Advisory Committee, the Leadership in Engineering Advancement Diversity and Retention Advisory Committee (LEADR) and the Avenue E Community College Transfer Program Advisory Board at University of California, Davis; the Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board and the International House Board of Directors at University of California, Berkeley; the Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board at University of California, Los Angeles; the Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity Advisory Committee (BOLD) at University of Colorado, Boulder; the Viterbi Dean’s Corporate Advisory Board and the Viterbi Center for Engineering Diversity Industry Advisory Board at University of Southern California; the Industry Advisory Council for Minority Education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Diversity, Inclusion and Access Advisory Board and the President’s Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Access (past) at Colorado School of Mines; the Women’s Engineering Program Advisory Board at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; the Corporate Membership Council of American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE); the Inclusion, Equity and Affinity Committee of National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) (past); the Postsecondary Pathways Innovation Lab Co-Chair of STEMconnector (past); the National Council on STEM and Technology for INROADS (past); the Women in Chemical Engineering Committee (WIC), Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) and Societal Impact Operating Council (SIOC) for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); and the Petroleum Geosciences Advisory Board and Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board at Chulalongkorn University/Thailand (past).

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Program: A focused, 5-year effort to increase the number of underrepresented 7th-grade students who are academically prepared to take algebra Background In February 2013, more than twenty national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) organizations were invited by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to discuss priorities for underrepresented minorities in STEM. In October of that same year, these organizations reconvened to discuss a collaborative effort to support K-12 STEM education and increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students with the prerequisites to pursue STEM. Participants converged on the goal of ensuring that every 7th-grade student in the United States is academically prepared to take algebra. By February 2014, the nine partner organizations that signed on to support the initiative were back at the White House discussing their commitment. Organization 1 and organization 2 piloted the first program in September 2014. However, logistical and resource challenges were experienced, and it was determined that the program was better suited for a University-Industry collaborative effort. Subsequently, the program was resurrected and piloted at the R1 Doctoral University in conjunction with the corporation in Fall 2017. Beginning as 3rd graders in 2017, the initial cohort will be completing the 6th grade this year, and will be eligible for University’s Summer Engineering Workshops in Summer 2021.

The program is designed to be a substantive, high-impact year-long initiative that is highly scalable, replicable, and versatile for diverse organizations and organizational programming models. The PROGRAM centers around common core elements and methodologies, providing sufficient variability to work with each organization's programs, calendars, and constituencies.

Purpose/Hypothesis This article describes the program framework, outcomes, and recommendations for scaling the program beyond the current site at the R1 Doctoral University. The purpose of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented 7th-grade students in the United States that are academically prepared to take algebra. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015 math proficiency for Black 12th-grade students was only seven percent. To date, cohorts ranging from grades 3 through 6 are using Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS), a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system, mastering math concepts to accelerate grade level progression by 25 percent annually. Thus, increasing math proficiency, readiness, and opportunities for URMs to pursue STEM-related studies.

The ALEKS tool is not only being used at the primary and secondary education levels for the program, but it also is used at the university level to assess math competency and course placement for incoming first-year engineering students. Therefore, developing a national model which utilizes the ALEKS software at the grade school level will prove to be beneficial as students progress from K-12 to post-secondary education.

Program Design/Method The program incorporates both asynchronous and synchronous learning, addressing existing performance gaps in mathematics, with an ultimate desire to grow the pool of underrepresented minority students interested and eligible to pursue STEM-related fields. Increasing the number of underrepresented engineers and scientists requires early enriching support.

Students, parents/guardians, and mentors represent the core pillars of the program: ● Students maximize learning by engaging in online and in-session learning, group exercises, hands-on projects, meaningful mentor assignments, and exposure to practicing STEM professionals. Mathematics mastery is accelerated through this multi-faceted approach, supporting student growth and attitudes toward learning. ● Mentors facilitate blended learning environments using a combination of web-based and tactile engaging exercises that are designed to support culturally responsive learning environments. Hard work, achievement, and fun are promoted during each session, as math mastery and a growth mindset are supported. ● Parents/guardians attend the program’s sessions with their children. During these sessions, parents/guardians are involved in a separate 'track' of the program. The parent/guardian track involves discussions concerning national trends of math proficiency, reviewing math concepts related to their child's learning objectives, starting early to plan for college, as well as relevant topics related to supporting their child's learning and development at home and at school.

The program objectives are aimed to cumulatively improve student mastery of math concepts by 1.25 years each academic year, resulting in a 5-year advancement in 4 years and algebra readiness in middle school. Additional objectives include improved student performance on Standardized Tests; student academic performance in mathematics and school, writ large; student attitudes towards mathematics and school, writ large; equip students to meet or exceed Common Core State Standards, as well as individual state standards.

Results The most pronounced result is that students and parents/guardians alike have shown a marked improvement in their attitudes toward math. Students form positive relationships with their mentors and fellow students within their cohort, motivating them to engage actively during the in-person sessions and between sessions. The program engages undergraduate and graduate student mentors, who earn a stipend each semester that helps meet the needs of college affordability and provides an opportunity for organizational collaboration to achieve community-based initiatives. Student mentors are also members of student organizations, including, but not limited to the national student societies 1, 2, and 3, as well as other organizations.

The 2020-2021 program has yielded forty-five percent of students achieving student mastery of math concepts by 1.25 this academic year. All students have achieved significant growth, as measured against pre- and post-assessment performance. In addition, the first eligible cohort will attend the R1 Doctoral University’s Summer Engineering Workshops designed to expose participants to the impact of engineering careers and academic success strategies.

Conclusions The program is designed to be a substantive, high-impact year-long initiative that is highly scalable, replicable, and versatile for diverse organizations and organizational programming models. The program centers around common core elements and methodologies, providing sufficient variability to work with each organization's programs, calendars, and constituencies.

Previously piloted programs have demonstrated that the programs’ integrity hinges on the uniform understanding of the importance of integration, acceleration, engagement, and research. Organizations wishing to host such a program must assess the feasibility, scope, needs, requirements, and commitment involved in embarking upon the program.

Recognizing the importance of math proficiency, the program intends to track student pathways towards calculus while offering continued engagement in STEM-related experiences. We realize that the support and resources provided through the program are even more critical, as many students continue to be adversely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic learning disruptions.

Booth-Womack, V. L., & Johnson Austin, S., & Gibert, R. S., & Stwalley, C. S., & Berhan, L. M., & Markey, T., & Murphy-Ortega, C. (2022, February), Program: A focused, 5-year effort to increase the number of African American, Hispanic/Latino(a), Native American (AHLN) 7th-grade students who are academically prepared to take algebra Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/1-2--39136

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