The Reading Apprenticeship Community College STEM Network (RACCSN) was a three-year effort funded by a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Our goal was to increase the retention and success of all community college STEM students, including student populations underrepresented in STEM careers, and to ignite widespread change initiatives based on Reading Apprenticeship.
A faculty think tank collaborated in the development of STEM-focused workshops, seminars, an online course, and cross-campus exchanges. A total of 700 STEM instructors from 68 community colleges and 6 state universities engaged in Reading Apprenticeship professional learning during the grant period, reaching more than 160,000 students.
Data collection from the RACCSN project has been promising, with evidence of impact increased rates of persistence and success for all students, and particularly minority and female student populations.
At Chaffey College, overall student retention rates have increased for three out of four instructors in Biology, Math, and Computer Science. Student retention rates were particularly high in the two math courses, jumping from an average of 78.6% to 94.1%. At College of the Canyons, students in a Reading Apprenticeship-infused biology class persisted at a rate 22% higher than the same instructor’s non-Reading Apprenticeship biology students. The passing rate went from 59% to 84%, an increase of 25%. In one RACCSN math course, faculty reported that the student pass rate increased from 43% to 70%. Female students, often underrepresented in STEM fields, also benefited from courses with Reading Apprenticeship. Across the network, course retention for Latina/o students in Reading Apprenticeship classrooms improved 9% over non-RA students.
RACCSN was featured as a spotlight practice in the September 2017 “Demonstrated Excellence” report from The Campaign for College Opportunity, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring every Californian has the ability to attend and persist in higher education.
A recent report on the adoption of Reading Apprenticeship at Pasadena City College (PCC) published by Equal Measure, the research and evaluation partner of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s post-secondary grantmaking also illustrates the positive impact of RACSSN.
Equal Measure found that PCC teachers reported Reading Apprenticeship “helped them better connect with their students” and “brought structure, guidance, and improvement” to their practice. Students “became more resourceful and empowered to lead their own learning.” Change was seen at a group level as well. When Reading Apprenticeship was embedded into a general biology course redesign (taken by over 1000 students a year), the achievement gap between underrepresented minority students and white and Asian students was reduced by 10%.
Ongoing efforts to support STEM success
The California Community Colleges Success Network (3CSN) continues to partner with the Strategic Literacy Initiative to develop the network and to disseminate RACCSN’s work throughout California. The project supports a network of Community college STEM faculty and disseminates the learnings from the project in order to inform the national conversation about how best to support a diverse student body in courses that lead to STEM careers.