Change the Equation's blog

Sandy Presents a Chance for STEM

November 5, 2012

As recovery efforts continue in New York, New Jersey, and other areas seriously affected by Hurricane Sandy last week, many are already turning their eyes toward rebuilding efforts. And when rebuilding, STEM can -- and should -- play a key role in building smarter and stronger structures, in preparation for the next storm. 

Sandy already will likely be one of the five costliest storms in history, and so far, more than 100 people have lost their lives. A week later

Women Still Face Pay Gap

November 1, 2012

Last month, an equal pay question in the second presidential debate surprised, and angered, some. But a report released last week by the American Association of University Women shows why the question still has merit.

It's well cited that overall, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. But AAUW toke the analysis a step further, controlling for most factors cited in the wage gap -- children, career field, experience level -- by looking only at men and women one year out of college, and comparing within fields. What they found was that

Tags: women & girls, jobs & workforce

The Science of Sandy

October 30, 2012

Over the past few days, the East Coast has been battered by Sandy, a storm that is already breaking records.

Tags: science


October 29, 2012

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. The best laid plans...

Please stay tuned for future STEM Salons. You can check out our past Salons here:

STEM Skills Might Not Guarantee Success, but They Sure Improve the Odds

October 26, 2012

We often write that skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can open doors, even in a tough economy. That view has sparked a few messages and comments from jobless or underemployed STEM professionals who, ahem, see things differently. While we understand their frustration, we stand by our point.

Tags: Vital Signs, STEM & the states, jobs & workforce

Vital Signs: Women Lose Ground in College Degrees

October 24, 2012

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. That’s hardly the march of progress. At a time when we need more STEM graduates, our Vital Signs reports reveal that half of our population remains largely out of account.

Tags: Vital Signs, women & girls

NY Times features innovative six-year high school

October 22, 2012

Want a good look at the future? It may be inside a high school in Brooklyn. 

Vital Signs: Time for Science Plummets

October 18, 2012

In almost every U.S. state, the time elementary schools spend on science fell—often steeply—after 1994. Advocates for science in schools have long argued that science had become a forgotten stepchild of school reform. Our Vital Signs analysis of the data backs them up.*

So how do we reverse the trend? Hold schools accountable for how well their students do in science. Until very recently, few states did.

Tags: Vital Signs, science, STEM & the states

College Enrollment Takes a Hit

October 11, 2012

Despite being on the rise for years (and likely spurred on by the recession), college enrollment dipped nationwide in 2011, according to a new report released by the National Center on Education Statistics covering the 2011 college-enrollment trends.

Tags: jobs & workforce

New research: Millions lack access to advanced math, science

October 10, 2012

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:

Black students in schools without physics

In 39 states, at least 20 percent of Black students lack access to calculus in their schools:

Black students in schools without calculus

(For detailed state-level results broken down by race and ethnicity, see

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.

Tags: math, science, Vital Signs, minorities


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