TAMPA — Eleven Hillsborough County high schools have received grants to recruit under-represented groups — minority and female students — into advanced science, technology, engineering and math courses, known as the STEM curriculum.
The money, part of a $5 million grant to 800 schools nationally, will be used to expand advanced placement math and science programs, hire and certify more teachers, market the program to qualified students in the target groups and reward teachers whose students do well in these courses, said Larry Plank, director of STEM education for the county school system.
The College Board, Google and DonorsChoose.org provided the grant, and the money will fund programs in these high schools: King, Durant, Steinbrenner, Plant, Hillsborough, Blake, Newsome, Strawberry Crest, Robinson, Tampa Bay Technical and Gaither.
Plank says it's not clear why many girls and minority students, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics, aren't drawn to these courses.
"It begins as early as elementary school. We start to see it divide here,'' he said. It becomes greater between boys and girls in middle and high school.
One hypothesis is these kids often don't have math and science exposure at home. It's hard for students to affiliate with those disciplines if they don't have a mentor, said Plank. "Most scientists are white males.''