The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has agreed to increase efforts to include Hispanic students in it science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, offerings.
The agreement follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights into Hispanic students’ participation in the district’s STEM program.
The Department of Education’s investigation found only 130 of the district’s nearly 5,600 Hispanic students – just 2.3 percent – were enrolled in the district’s four STEM high schools last year.
It also noted only one of those schools is located on Cleveland’s west side, where the city’s Hispanic population is concentrated.
Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for the department’s Office for Civil Rights, said school districts nationwide are evaluated to make sure all students receive equal education opportunities. She declined to talk specifically about what drew the department’s attention to Cleveland, but did say that it never received a complaint about the district.
“There was not one specific incident that made us look at the district,” she said. “There’s a variety of factors that we use whether to evaluate a district, and together we decided that those factors led us to Cleveland.”
Lhamon added that district officials gave their full cooperation in both the investigation and developing a plan of action.
Under the agreement, the district will work to eliminate barriers Hispanic students face in gaining access to the STEM program, such as English language proficiency and transportation. It will also increase counseling and outreach to students and parents, in both English and Spanish, to steer more kids toward STEM education.