Graduation rates for disadvantaged students continue to lag behind the national norm. Additionally, there is a distinctly low rate of educationally and economically disadvantaged students going on to higher education in the fields of math, science, and engineering. A host of programs has sprung up to boost educational achievement among underprivileged students. One of the most time tested is California's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program (MESA).
Through a unique combination of partnerships among educators, parents, and industry sponsors, MESA has been chipping away at the achievement gap that plagues underprivileged students. Instead of taking a remedial tack, MESA simultaneously nurtures the academic efforts of disadvantages students and challenges them to take on more difficult classes and be academically competitive. This cross-section of support and increasing standards of excellence gives students the tools they need to be viable candidates for top colleges.
MESA operates on an elementary school, high school, community college, and college level. For pre-college students MESA offers tutoring, individual academic plans for each student, study skills training, parent leadership development, SAT and AP preparation, incentive awards, daylong workshops, week-long retreats, and career/ college counseling. MESA California Community College Program helps students in two-year institutions prepare for transition into math, engineering and science programs at four-year institutions. And finally, the MESA Engineering Program assists freshman and sophomores enrolled in engineering programs to excel and progress in the field.
MESA has also been credited with building a culture of academic success in which students feel a sense of peer group belonging based on their commitment to academic goals, and not academic failure. This important shift has allowed high-achieving students to feel that they fit in--even in traditionally troubled milieus where social status has typically been defined by misbehavior and academic apathy. This academically invigorated environment has helped propel students into high level educational endeavors and college.
The message of MESA is that with attention from educators in each phase of academic development--elementary, secondary, community college and college--all students can thrive in math, science and engineering. Among MESA participants, the rate of college enrollment is 30 percent higher than that of all California graduating seniors. Ninety percent of the traditionally underrepresented engineering baccalaureate recipients were MESA students.
Industry representatives are enlisted by MESA to raise awareness about employment opportunities in the fields of math, science, and engineering so that students and parents can see the value of pursuing academic excellence and higher education. The private sector is further engaged in the teaching process through guest lectures in MESA classrooms and participating in a student internship program that exposes kids to professional settings and responsibilities.
For 30 years MESA has been working closely with kids and parents, keying them into the educational and career possibilities open to high achievers. By teaming educators with corporate activists, MESA has built a network of support for disadvantaged students who might otherwise get lost in the educational shuffle. Seven states have already adopted MESA and are experiencing increased representation of African American, Latino and American Indian students in math, science and engineering fields throughout their institutions of higher education. MESA has made enormous progress towards the greater goal of educational equality by closing the achievement gap among Californian students.