Serving Up STEM at Aberdeen High

Today, OSTP’s Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Patricia Falcone and Joining Forces Executive Director, Colonel Rich Morales, are visiting Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, MD, celebrating that school’s designation by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) as NMSI’s “School of the Year.”

Aberdeen High is one of the Nation’s many schools with a high proportion of students whose parents are in the military—in this case, serving at the U.S. Army base at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). These children often face unique academic challenges, in part because their parents tend to move so frequently. That’s why, in 2010, OSTP and the White House Joining Forces initiative worked with NMSI to bring NMSI’s Comprehensive Advanced Placement (AP) Program to schools that serve large numbers of military families. The Program provides enhanced teacher training and mentorship, extra time on-task for students, Saturday study sessions, and incentives for students and teachers, all aimed at boosting success in AP courses—which can give students a significant advantage as they head to college.

NMSI’s Aberdeen program launched in the 2012-2013 school year and made an immediate, impressive impact. The average increase in passing scores on AP math, science, and English exams was 137 percent—19 times the average increase nationally—and helped earn the school NMSI’s coveted  “School of the Year” award.

OSTP asked two students to briefly describe their experiences in the Aberdeen program. Some excerpts:

Andrew Montgomery recently graduated and is now a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. His father is active in the Army Signal Corps at APG and his mother is retired from the Military Intelligence Corps.

"Although I was nervous about the transition to college, I found myself extremely prepared to take on college-level academics.  I attribute this preparedness largely to the rigorous classes that I took while in high school, namely the numerous AP classes.  While in high school, I took eight AP classes, including AP Calculus AB and BC, AP English Language & Composition and Literature & Composition, and AP Physics C.  The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) Comprehensive AP Program was very helpful while taking these AP classes, as it offered Saturday Study Sessions and mock AP exams, which helped both students and teachers better prepare for the actual AP exams.

Now that I am studying at the University of Maryland for a degree in mechanical engineering, I am grateful that I was able to take AP courses and get ahead in college by placing out of classes as a result of my scores on AP exams.  In a major as rigorous as engineering, having fewer classes to worry about translates to a less stressful first year of college and gives me more flexibility over my schedule when compared to my engineering peers who did not place out of any classes.Thanks to my teachers at AHS and NMSI’s Comprehensive AP program, being a student from a military family has enhanced my educational experience, despite the many moves and school transfers."

Elasha Colby is a current senior who is about to graduate (a year early!). Her parents are not active in the military. 

"The NMSI program was implemented and offered to Aberdeen High School students in my sophomore year. I wasn’t too confident about taking AP classes, but I’m so happy my teachers encouraged me to enroll in AP math and science courses. The classes continue to challenge me and provide me with the motivation to pursue a degree and a career in STEM.  I’ve always had the desire to seek out challenging courses, but I lacked the understanding of the value and benefits of the Advanced Placement exams. However, my teachers continually encouraged me to take the AP exams and the further I progressed through my AP courses, the more my ability and interest grew. By the end of the year, I registered for three AP courses and scored a three out of five on one of them, which I took as a personal victory, considering that was my first year taking AP. This year I chose to take seven AP courses! I am now more confident in my abilities to tackle college courses and ready to excel in my future STEM career."

OSTP and Joining Forces warmly congratulate Aberdeen High School and all the students who are pushing beyond their comfort zones to pursue exciting coursework in science, technology, and math. 

Rick Weiss is Assistant Director for Strategic Communications and Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP.

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