As students have heard about in class, we are beginning work with our 14th cohort of Project Excite 3rd grade students. But what is Project Excite? What are these young students doing when they come over to ETHS ten times for science and math related activities? Does this effort pay off?
One of the primary goals for Project Excite is to prepare minority students for honors and AP level science and math classes by the time they are in the high school. The model for doing this revolves around the notion that we must start young. The academic achievement gap begins forming very early, and many years prior to high school. We start with the 3rd grade, where there is already a significant academic achievement gap, at least as represented by a variety of testing measures and teacher experience.
By working consistently with about two dozen students per cohort, the achievement gap is eliminated by the 7th grade on average, again as measured by some tests (ISAT and EXPLORE). On paper, these students tend to be as strong and as prepared for high school as white students. One issue that we may be seeing (this is a hypothesis) is related to stereotype threat, where on paper a group should be able to perform as well as other groups, but in reality they underperform. This can happen in many contexts when there is a social stereotype or expectation that a group is supposed to underperform. But if one can take away that stereotype threat, then the same group performs at the same level as the 'dominant' group.
Whatever the reason, we are now working on figuring out what supports are needed at the high school level to ensure the Excite students do well in those honors and AP classes, and get into top-tier colleges so they have multiple options available for majors and careers.