We regret that we have to cancel our October 30th STEM Salon on the implications of the coming election for STEM learning. With Frankenstorm bearing down on us, the Salon is simply impossible.
We often write that skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can open doors, even in a tough economy.
In 2000/01, women earned 33 percent of all college certificates and degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM.) In 2008/2009,* they earned 31 percent.
Want a good look at the future?
In almost every U.S. state, the time elementary schools spend on science fell—often steeply—after 1994.
Despite being on the rise for years (and likely
About one in six Hispanic high school students attends a school that does not even offer physics. Among Black students, it’s one in five. American Indian students? One in three.
Things are even worse in Calculus. Schools that do not offer the subject enroll a third of Hispanic students, more than a third of Black students, and a whopping 44 percent of American Indian students.
Why should we care? These findings from our Vital Signs reports deal a severe blow to our ideals of equal opportunity and economic vitality. If you can’t take classes like physics or calculus in high school, you’ll have a hard time getting on a path to critical (and high-paying) jobs in fields like engineering and technology. Millions of U.S. high school students are in this fix. That adds up to a lot of squandered talent at a time when employers can’t find the engineers and tech workers they need.
These findings emerged from our review of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a federal government survey of more than 70,000 schools in some 7,000 districts that enroll about 85 percent of the nation’s students. We worked with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to publish the first state-by-state analysis of this massive dataset.
Things might be especially dire for students in your state. The maps below focus on Black students. Note that, in 17 states, at least 20% of Black students don't have access to physics in their schools:
In 39 states, at least 20 percent of Black students lack access to calculus in their schools:
(For detailed state-level results broken down by race and ethnicity, see vitalsigns.changetheequation.org).
So what can states do to address this problem? Raising high school graduation requirements can be part of the solution.
Yet simply mandating that schools offer such courses is not enough. Teachers might not be prepared to teach such courses, and students might not be prepared to take them. Rather, states can promote programs that prepare schools and students alike for advanced math and science classes. One such program is the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP), which brings AP classes into schools that are least likely to offer them and then gives students and staff the support they need to succeed. States like Colorado, Texas and Virginia, which foster APTIP programs, have seen AP participation and passing numbers skyrocket in participating schools.
Even with such programs, this is a tough nut to crack. It takes good policy and persistent support for schools and students. Yet we certainly can't content ourselves with such an uneven playing field.
If the September jobs report makes you cautiously optimistic, you should be downright giddy about the outlook for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The most recent jobs report shows that overall jobless rates fell to under 8 percent for the first time since 2009. That's somewhat good news after three tough years. Yet those years were not nearly as tough for people with a background in STEM fields. Our Vital Signs reports reveal that unemployment rates in STEM fields averaged 4.1 percent between March 2009 and March 2012. Over that same period, there were two job openings in STEM for every unemployed person with a STEM background. (Check out the Vital Signs to see how your state fared.)
People with a strong foundation in STEM have had good reason to be bullish, even in bearish times.
Whatever your political leanings may be, STEM came out on top in Wednesday's presidential debate. Both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney spoke about the need for an STEM-educated workforce in the global economy.
President Obama specifically highlighted his STEM initiatives, including recruiting 100,000 new science and math teachers and increasing community-college enrollment by 2 million. Governor Romney spoke of improving workforce training as well. Both mentioned the point that a strong education system is foundation to growing the economy. The two candidates also shared their views on teachers, schools, and the federal role in education.
We know that we're at a critical point in STEM education. Most students today will be employed in jobs and industries yet to be dreamed up. But many don't receive the STEM education they need to be career- and college-ready, and those that don't are likely to be our most vulnerable students: students from low-income backgrounds and students of color. In an election about the economy and the economic future of the U.S., STEM education should be a vibrant point of discussion. We're pleased that it made it into prime time last night.
Teenagers are constantly plugged into the fruits of computer scientists' labor, but few have access to courses or teachers that can help them become the next Mark Zuckerberg. But friends in the tech industry are helping to change that.
Microsoft, a CTEq member company, has started sending its own engineers back into the classroom to lead computer-science courses at schools that would otherwise not have them. The students learn