Rationale for Focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Urban High Schools

James Joseph Scheurich, Kristin Shawn Huggins, James Morgan, Mary M Capraro, Robert M Capraro, Royce Avery

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Large groups of students are almost always left out of most substantial efforts to improve mathematics and science learning, especially urban African American and Latino high school students who are from low income families. The typical rationales for this deficiency are well known: 1) it is supposedly too hard to get successful academic results with these students (Goodenow, 1993; Tobin et al., 1999); 2) many different programs and reforms have concluded to be failures (Henig, Hula, & Pedescleaux,1999; Tyack & Cuban, 1995); 3) many schools that serve these students are often low performing for many years such that low performance becomes embedded in the school’s culture (Fine, 1991; McPartland, Balfanz Jordan, & Legters, 1998); 4) there is often considerable instability of teachers, administrators, students, and families in these schools (Rumberger & Larson, 1998; Velez, 1989); 5) typically the least successful and least experienced teachers teach in these schools (e. g., Louis & Miles, 1990); and, 6) the poverty, the low educational attainment of parents, little access to decent jobs, social and institutional racism, among other causes, create difficult conditions for these students (Massey, Scott, & Dornbusch, 1975). Even though these urban high school environments may be difficult, to give up on these students is not an option for several critically important reasons. First, given that the U.S. is historically committed to being an equitable democracy, to write off these students is ethically and morally unacceptable (Scheurich & Skrla, 2003). Second, African American and Latino urban high school students are too large of a group and too large of a percentage of all high school students to give up on. For example, 44.0% of all urban high school students in the top 50 urban centers are African American or Latino, and 57.8% of all African American high school students in the U.S. are in these urban centers along with 55.5% of all Latino high school students (American Community Survey, 2006). Therefore, most African American and Latino students attend urban high schools where little successful mathematics and science activities have occurred. Third, because of the size of this group, it necessary to the country as a whole to be academically successful with these students if the U.S. is going to have a thriving economy (Augustine, 2005). And, fourth, if we are going to have successful urban students who can model for other urban students, teachers must learn through professional development how to be successful with these students (Cammarota, 2004; Connell, Spencer, & Aber, 1994; Sanders, 1998). This paper will, thus, provide an indepth rationale for working with urban high school students in mathematics and science. The presentation will be made by a former doctoral student on the STEM project (now an assistant professor) and an urban district leader.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAmerican Educational Research Association 2011 Annual Meeting: Inciting the Social Imagination - New Orleans Marriott, New Orleans, United States
Duration: 08 Apr 201112 Apr 2011


ConferenceAmerican Educational Research Association 2011 Annual Meeting
Abbreviated titleEducation Research for the Public Good
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Internet address


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