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NSF INCLUDES Alliance: STEM Opportunities in Prison Settings (STEM-OPS)

Dr. Milner and the RRJ team received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to pursue research related to understanding the role of systems in perpetuating the school to prison pipeline. The group studies the preK-12 stories and experiences of individuals who are or were incarcerated. Known as STEM Opportunities in Prison Settings (STEM-OPS), the alliance was awarded more than $5M to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) preparation during and post incarceration. Using a collective impact approach, the alliance works collaboratively with key stakeholders and the target population to advance extant and untapped knowledge on high quality prison STEM education and opportunities. This work builds on other efforts supported by NSF, including exploratory work piloted by two NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilots.

Specifically, in collaboration with scholars from around the United States who represent organizations such as the Princeton Teaching InitiativeFrom Prisons Cells to PhDsOperation Restoration and the Education Development Center, the RRJ leads original research that seeks to help individuals who are incarcerated or who were incarcerated gain the skills necessary to compete for jobs in STEM fields. We also serve as a bridge between national and local networks of experts on race to inform the development of culturally responsive systems that connect the previously incarcerated with STEM opportunities nationwide. In short, our efforts will disrupt the school to prison pipeline while supporting those who are and have experienced the Carceral System in Nashville and beyond.

Project REAL

Funded by a Peabody Small Grant, Project REAL (Reinforcing Education and Learning) is a research project focused on mentoring and tutoring experiences. The project provides academic and socio-emotional support to elementary and middle school students in Nashville. A goal of Project REAL is to improve academic achievement for students, known as REAL Scholars, by providing them with tools to advocate for themselves and succeed socially inside and outside of schools.

A second aim of Project REAL is to reduce student office referrals and consequently suspensions and expulsions by equipping students, especially through mentoring, with strategies to navigate school settings. RRJ researches and studies both the impact of the program as well as experiences of mentor and student participants. RRJ studies trends in student grades, office referrals, suspensions, and overall schooling experiences.