NSF INCLUDES Launch Pilot: STEPs to STEM
This NSF INCLUDES Launch Pilot project, STEPs to STEM, will create a statewide STEM pipeline within an integrated program of community college education throughout the state prisons of New Jersey. The Pilot leverages a long-standing collaboration among education, government, and volunteer sectors including NJ-Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (STEP), all of whom commit to work together to accredit and ensure articulation (transferability) of the required STEM courses. The broadening participation challenge that will be addressed by this Pilot is to extend college-level STEM education to incarcerated persons, who are overwhelmingly minorities from the lowest socioeconomic levels of American society. Education in general and STEM education in particular equips students for high-level workforce readiness, offering improved quality of life for formerly incarcerated persons and their families and contributing to American economic success.
Four major goals of the Pilot are: 1. consolidate and ensure articulation of STEM A.A. courses in NJ state prisons with a seamless path to B.A. study at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; 2. begin teaching new accredited STEM courses and offering REU and internship opportunities to released students; 3. implement tracking of students in STEM courses while incarcerated and beyond, enabling a supplementary research goal to evaluate student and teacher performance in comparison with mainstream educational settings; 4. work with partners in business, government, non-profit, development, and public sectors to build a complete STEM pipeline with a long-term goal of enabling formerly incarcerated students to clear their records through education and workforce participation in STEM. Implementation of the goals will proceed as follows. Senior personnel from each of the cooperating institutions and a jointly-supervised postdoctoral trainee will negotiate the terms of accreditation and articulation across the state system with our partner, the lead accreditation institution, Raritan Valley Community College. Teaching of STEM courses by our established team of volunteers will commence as each course is accredited. Our industry and research partners will begin offering REU and training internships in the first summer. Educational research professional on the team will guide the design, implementation, and analysis of student and teacher performance. New partners will be brought in to the collective from the non-profit, business, and public sectors to extend the reach and impact of this initiative.
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