$1M National Science Foundation grant will expand UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools’ effort to close learning gaps and increase opportunities in STEM for low-income students of color at two LAUSD schools in South Los Angeles.


By: John McDonald, UCLA, School of Education & Information Studies
Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools (CTS) has been awarded a 3-year, $1M National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to strengthen Computational Thinking (CT) and build a pipeline to STEM careers for students in South Los Angeles. The grant will support a Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) working to identify the critical academic and support systems students need to acquire foundational Computer Science knowledge, skills, and competencies. The funding will also support the development of a pathway from John Muir Middle School (JMMS) to The Critical Design and Gaming School at Augustus F. Hawkins High School through mentoring provided by UCLA’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity. The partnership includes collaboration with The Hidden Genius Project to provide mentor training, and The California Mathematics Project to provide educator coaching and project-based learning support.

The Research Practice Partnership builds upon a previous NSF-funded project to spur interest in Computer Science, expanding the program from 50 ninth-grade students to 300 students in grades 6-12 engaged in Computer Science and STEM learning. The effort aims to positively impact students by increasing their computational thinking skills, strengthen partnerships with key STEM industries and organizations, and continue building relationships with relevant community members.

Previous research has made clear that students of color have less access to STEM-related fields of study and occupations than their peers. Low-income students of color in the Los Angeles area have historically struggled to meet state standards in mathematics, a pattern that is reflected in the two school sites in South Los Angeles participating in the project.

“Our hope is that the Research-Practice Partnership pathway can inform district intervention policies and practices to effectively close learning gaps; particularly gaps in mathematics and related subjects for historically marginalized groups,” said UCLA Project Director Stanley L. Johnson Jr., lead researcher on the project. “Additionally, we believe that our model for co-constructing the development of computational thinking through teacher-centered pedagogy and near-peer mentoring can inform teachers’ instructional approaches to CT development.”

“We are hopeful students will want to return to the program as college-age mentors due to their involvement in the program,” Tyrone Howard, UCLA Professor of Education and Faculty Director of the Center for the Transformation of Schools,  Tyrone Howard said. “We anticipate new and unique outcomes from these two South Los Angeles communities that will benefit significantly from stronger STEM connections.”

Computational Thinking (CT) Development Pathways Research Practice Partnership is a project of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. More information about the project can be found here.

Read the original announcement HERE.