In 2011, 7.4 percent of African-American students in the Pittsburgh Public School District were enrolled in advanced placement courses. While enrollment has reportedly increased since 2011, a recently awarded grant from the Heinz Endowments is focused on increasing those numbers even further.

“The Heinz Endowments is delighted that Pittsburgh Public Schools has embraced this incredible teaching and learning opportunity for its students,” said Stanley Thompson, director of The Heinz Endowments Education Program in a June 4 press release announcing the new partnership. “Advocated access to AP courses will no doubt be a game changer for many PPS students, especially for those who have been traditionally left on the college preparation sidelines.”

The $930,637 grant will provide for the expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative’s Advance Placement (AP) program at Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy. NMSI is a non-profit organization aimed at preparing students for college by improving their performance in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

African-Americans are severely underrepresented in the STEM fields and in STEM degree programs at colleges and universities across the country. In fact, from 2001 to 2009 the percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees decreased from 8.1 percent to 7.5 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

“With this generous grant from The Heinz Endowments to implement NMSI’s innovative program, Pittsburgh Public Schools will provide excellent education to students with more rigorous, project-based coursework to prepare them for college,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the NMSI, in the press release. “The partnership with these high schools will help increase the performance of students—particularly minority students and girls—and provide teachers with resources to help make a huge impact on young students’ lives.”

According to statistics from 2007, nationally, African-American students take 5.8 percent of AP tests. At the time African-American students made up 7.4 percent of all students in AP classes.

NMSI’s AP program is designed to increase teacher effectiveness and student achievement in rigorous math and science courses through training, teacher and student support, vertical teaming, open enrollment, and incentives. Teachers in the program receive specialized training and classroom resources and are given incentives to produce results.

“We are very grateful to The Heinz Endowments for this generous gift to support the National Math and Science Initiative AP program at two of our schools. Through this grant our advanced placement teachers will receive the intensive content training necessary to ensure student success on the AP exam,” said Superintendent Linda Lane in the release. “We know that there is strong correlation between student success on AP exams and success in college.”


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