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STEM Initiative in Mass. Boosts AP Passing Rates, Study Finds

A statewide program in Massachusetts aimed at improving math and science education is showing some evidence of success, with more students taking and succeeding on Advanced Placement exams, finds an independent evaluation.

The 53 schools taking part in the Mass Math + Science Initiative have made "significant gains" in AP participation and pass rates when compared with their own baseline as well as with a set of comparable schools that did not offer the program, the study issued this month concludes. The greatest benefits came for African-American and Hispanic students in both high-need schools and what it calls "mid-need" schools, according to the study.

The results suggest that "there is tremendous untapped capacity among [African-American and Hispanic] students in schools across the state that is not being accessed," says the report, authored by Brett Lane, the president of the Institute for Strategic Leadership and Learning.

The report was commissioned by Mass Insight Education, which organized the initiative in partnership with the state and private funders.

In 2007, Massachusetts was one of six states selected to participate in a program led by the National Math and Science Initiative. The program is focused on AP courses in not only math and science, but also English. (In fact, NMSI recently won a $15 million grant under the U.S. Department of Education's i3 Investing in Innovation program to expand this same work.)

The results come as Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., a health-care equipment company, this month announced that it was providing $1 million to support the Massachusetts initiative.

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