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Hope Seen for Improving Minority Access to Science

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WASHINGTON--Officials of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said here last week that existing programs for increasing the access of female, minority, and handicapped students to science and mathematics coursework give encouragement that the underrepresentation of such groups in these fields is a "solvable'' problem.

"We know a lot about what works,'' said Shirley M. Malcom, director of the association's office of opportunities in science. "We have a 'technology transfer' problem.''

Her comments came at a symposium for members of the Congress and their staffs. The A.A.A.S. released at the meeting a partial list of 150 programs nationwide it has identified as working specifically to increase minority access to science programs.

The existence of such programs indicates that a longstanding problem in the field may be amenable to targeted educational efforts, according to Ms. Malcom.

"We are on the edge of success,'' she said. "That's a lot better than throwing up our hands and saying, 'The system is bankrupt.'''

The list of programs released at the meeting updated one compiled in 1983 by the office for the National Science Board's commission on precollege education in mathematics, science, and technology.

Since 1983, Ms. Malcom said, many programs have expanded, and others "have gone by the wayside.'' The A.A.A.S. will conduct a detailed analysis, she said, to determine the characteristics of the programs that have survived.

The new study found that most of the successful programs in this area are started by agencies outside the schools, such as science museums, universities, and community organizations. Their focus is usually on improving the teaching of science and mathematics in schools or influencing the educational choices of the targeted students.

Programs that work, the study concludes, involve teachers with strong math and science backgrounds who have high expectations for minority, disabled, and female students. They also have challenging materials, use such community resources as science museums and zoos, and offer students mentors and role models who are also women, handicapped, or members of minority groups.--R.R.

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