Growing scientists

At University of Maryland in Baltimore County, Meyerhoff Scholars, most of whom are black, excel in science and engineering, writes Brent Staples in the New York Times.

The students are encouraged to study in groups and taught to solve complex problems collectively, as teams of scientists do. Most important, they are quickly exposed to cutting-edge science in laboratory settings, which demystifies the profession and gives them early access to work that often leads to early publication in scientific journals. At the same time, however, the students are pushed to perform at the highest level. Those who earn C’s, for example, are encouraged to repeat those courses so they can master basic concepts before moving on.

A very high percentage graduate with science or engineering degrees and go on to graduate or professional programs. And it’s not just that they’re smart to begin with.

Meyerhoff students are twice as likely to earn undergraduate degrees in science or engineering as similar students who declined the scholarships and went to school elsewhere. Most significantly, students who completed the Meyerhoff program are 5.3 times as likely to enroll in graduate study as the students who said no and went elsewhere.

To simplify, students get the cachet of being “scholars,” a kinship with fellow science students, access to professors and lab work and a constant message that C work isn’t good enough. The Meyerhoff program once was restricted to minority students, but that was thrown out in court.

Science is hot these days: Here’s a great LA Times story on a contract science teacher who’s turned on students at a low-income, all-minority LA school.

The children of 112th Street are on fire about science because a teacher named Stan White came into their lives last fall like a blowtorch — a large blowtorch with a wide smile, a shaved head, a crisp no-nonsense manner and a deep-seated belief that these children are as capable of excelling as any children anywhere.

The elementary school’s science team competes against high-achieving charter schools. The kids think they can win.

If you’re not registered for the LA Times, try [email protected] with bugmenot as the password or go to, ahem, Bug Me Not for a fresh sign-in. It’s definitely a read-the-whole-thing story.

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  1. Andy Freeman says:

    If White is making more of a difference than his fellow teachers (same kids), should he get paid more than said fellow teachers?

  2. Nels Nelson says:

    The article states that he’s a private contractor making $350 to $450 a day.

  3. Steve LaBonne says:

    What I really like about that Meyerhoff program is the institutional support for working in teams. It’s known, and studies have documented, that African-American college students in science and math when left to themselves are usually much less savvy about organizing or joining study groups than white or, especially, Asian students, and this hurts them pretty badly. I saw this for myself when I was teaching college and did what I could to clue in such students about the benefits of collaborative study, but organized institutional support is what’s really needed.