This post was originally published on Defender Network.

By Laura Onyeneho

A new exploration program aimed at closing the achievement gap and providing opportunities in STEM for Black students is coming to Houston ISD.

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), in partnership with the National CARES Mentoring Movement, and Boeing, will tackle systemic challenges faced by students of color by supporting academic learning recovery and student wellness.

The program will begin this summer and the partnering school will be Worthing Early College High School. It will also provide academic and social-emotional support for ninth-grade math students along with career mentoring designed to improve student performance.

“Our relationship with HISD goes back over a decade and we thought that they would be a perfect fit to do something a little innovative,” said Michelle Stie, vice president of teaching and learning at NMSI. “We really need to think about how we support our students, especially coming out of the pandemic.”


  • Train teachers and provide proper tools and resources to build and maintain subject matter expertise.
  • Address students’ academic and social-emotional needs through recruiting, training and engaging Black mentors.
  • Encourage career exploration through Boeing staff and expose students to STEM field and workforce development experiences.

According to Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, during the 2020-2021 school year, several districts reported a significant increase in the percentage of students failing at least one course. The shift from virtual learning, being cut off from peer groups and major milestones, to grieving the loss of loved ones disrupted the mental health and academic performance of these students.

“We will be providing teacher training and part of the training is how we engage students with challenging content and getting them ready for advanced STEM,” said Stie. “National CARES will be working with students in that kind of social-emotional capacity to make sure students feel confident, getting those soft skills and wellness support they need to be successful.”

Stai said NMSI will track academic growth and review some assessments that can help target whether students are making progress through their school curriculum. They will also conduct focus groups and surveys concentrating on students’ self-perception in STEM.

The duration of this program will be one full academic year. NMSI will then reassess, evaluate the progress and make tweaks to the program before making the decision to scale to other schools in the district.