STEM Beats - March 2016

STEMtistic on Display: Gifted Black Students

March 31, 2016

Making sure the teacher population is diverse and representative can play an impactful role in getting female, Hispanic, and black students involved in pursuing STEM fields at higher levels. Studies show the number of black students recognized for their academic talents and recommended for gifted programs rises significantly when the teacher is also black.

Source: American Educational Research Association, A Look at the Education Crisis, January 2016.

Tags: minorities, STEMtistics

Return on Investment from Your College Degree

March 30, 2016

There’s been a lot of discussion in the presidential campaign about the high cost of college education.  It goes without saying that pursuing a master’s or a PhD adds even more to the cost.  After spending all that time and money, how much are you likely to earn?  How can a prospective college student make an informed choice of major recently published their College Salary Report 2015-2016  They ranked college and graduate school majors from best to worst in terms of pay potential, using median early-career and mid-career annual earnings.  This is the eighth year they have published such a study.

The results are unequivocal:  STEM majors lead to the most remunerative careers.  Payscale surveyed recipients of the three hundred nineteen undergraduate degrees, and those that led to the top twenty-five earning potentials were in STEM subjects.  The top twenty five graduate degrees also were in STEM disciplines.  These majors run the full gamut of STEM subjects, including various types of engineering, physics, computing, mathematics, health care, and natural sciences.

A quick glance through Payscale’s past reports confirms that each year STEM disciplines dominated the top twenty-five list of “majors that pay you back.”

Why do we at CTEq care about this news?  It illustrates that a lot of rewarding, well-paying jobs are out there in the STEM fields; in fact, we know that corporate America is struggling to find enough talent for business to continue to grow and thrive.  Though demand is high, supply is insufficient.

Are we doing enough to encourage young people to pursue these careers?  Too many children in the U.S. have limited access to high-quality STEM education.  Furthermore, those same underserved children often do not know any adults in STEM careers who can serve as role models for them.   

Change the Equation, with its corporate coalition members, is working to improve STEM education in grades K-12, extending access and inspiration to more and more students.  Additionally, we offer guidance and support to help our members embrace skills-based volunteering programs for their employees, allowing students the chance to connect with professionals in STEM careers.  Together, our efforts can give all young people the chance to pursue rewarding careers that are tickets to prosperity.

Tags: higher education

Will Low Expectations Undermine New Tests?

March 18, 2016

Two new studies send mixed messages about how well higher state standards and new state tests are changing the equation in preparing young people for college and careers.

First, the good news. A study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded that the content and quality of tests that judge how well students have mastered Common Core standards “have largely delivered on their promises.” The study evaluated four different English and math tests that 30 states are using to measure mastery of the Common Core.

Overall, the study concludes, while there are opportunities for refinements, the tests are rigorous and well aligned with the standards—and “major improvements” over previous generations of tests. Bravo!

Now, the downside. States remain all over the map when it comes to proficiency rates (in other words, the scores students need to pass those new and improved tests).  A study by Gary Phillips of the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that, even though 30 states use tests aligned to the Common Core, only a handful set proficiency rates as high as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a common benchmark for rigor.

As AIR points out, states embraced common high standards “partly to establish more rigor and uniformity in what students should know to be on track for college or career as they approach high school graduation.” While the rigor of many new tests is heartening, the lack of uniformity in state expectations for proficiency is troubling.

Where do we go from here? As we’ve argued from the get-go, implementing high standards to prepare all young people for a competitive world was never going to be easy. We’re not in the clear yet—not by a long shot. Low proficiency standards perpetuate the lie that most high school graduates are equally prepared for career pathways that lead to good jobs. Students and parents have been paying the steepest price for that lie. They should not have to find out after graduation, when it’s too late, that college and rewarding careers are out of reach.

The Fordham researchers took on this central question: Are the new tests good and worth fighting for? Indeed, they are. The challenge now is to raise expectations for performance on most states’ tests. Business leaders must keep up the pressure in their states to ensure that all high school graduates are justifiably confident that they are ready to take on the world.

Tags: standards

Do Poor Tech Skills Threaten American Innovation?

March 11, 2016

In the United States, we see ourselves as a nation of problem solvers, tinkerers, and inventors who have driven more than a century of technological revolutions from light bulbs to smart phones. Yes, students in most other developed countries leave ours in the dust in subjects like math and science, but we often find comfort in the belief that our special American innovation gene fortifies us against poor performance in school.

And then, every so often, a new international study bursts that bubble.

Yesterday, a study of new data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) found that American adults do worst of all in “problem solving in a technology-rich environment,” a fancy way of saying that Americans are not good at solving problems using technology. In fact, Americans ranked dead last on this measure, behind adults in 17 other countries that participated in the study.

Worse, the study reinforced findings from Does Not Compute, our 2015 analysis of earlier PIAAC data: namely, that young Americans, who grew up with technology, also score well below the international average. As CTEq CEO told The Wall Street Journal this week, "Just because you're a digital native, doesn't mean you're tech savvy." To quote Does Not Compute, findings like these raise questions about the nation's readiness to “fulfill the promise of technology, which is to help us be more productive, accelerate innovation, and overcome seemingly intractable challenges.”

We may be the birthplace of the digital revolution, but our education system isn't helping Americans catch up to the rest of the world in their digital skills. In fact, a closer look at the new PIAAC data reveals a stunning pattern. An American with a bachelor’s degree is about as likely to be tech savvy as the typical Associate’s degree holder in one of the other 17 countries. That also goes for American Associate’s degree holders, who were about as likely to be tech savvy as the average person who never progressed beyond high school in the other countries. Americans with a high school diploma actually seem less likely to be tech savvy than high school dropouts elsewhere.  

What's the solution? For one, we cannot assume that using technology often means using it well. To quote our recent study again, "if we simply leave young people to their own devices--quite literally--their low skills will become a dead weight on individual opportunity and American productivity." Fortunately, there are excellent STEMworks programs that prove tech savvy can be taught if schools and communities make a point of actually teaching it.

To learn more about programs and strategies that are making a difference, have a look at the programs we profile in Does Not Compute.

Tags: computer science, technology

Six STEM Companies with the Most Female Executives

March 8, 2016

Some companies understand the importance of having women in leadership roles—especially in STEM fields. The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) makes a yearly assessment of those companies that put intentional and concerted effort into building, promoting, and retaining female leaders. Today is International Women’s Day! So what better way to celebrate than to look at the six STEM companies (that also happen to be members!) where female talent dominates at the c-suite executive level?

6. Verizon (New York, NY)

Verizon New York

This communications company knows that great talent starts with great recruiting. Verizon constantly seeks out great women to hire from colleges and industry associations nationwide.  Once recruited, women have the option to shine in STEM leadership development programs specifically for engineering and IT. Make it to the executive level and the Executive Staffing program will ensure additional support and coaching.

5. CA Technologies (New York, NY)

CA Technologies New York

A self-proclaimed leader in software application economy, CA Technologies is among the STEM companies honored this year because of its inclusive hiring practices. Not only do all the interview panels include women but according to, “[CA Technologies’] Diverse Slate Program requires hiring managers to consider applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities and genders when filling jobs; so far, at least 75% of positions are being presented with varied candidates.”

4. DuPont (Wilmington, DE)

Dupont Delaware

Dedicated to solving global challenges with science and engineering, DuPont knew the key to increasing representation of female leaders began with identifying more women for its Accelerated Leadership Development Program. They have since started a DuPont Women’s Leadership Program that helps develop the strengths of female managers and establishes networking opportunities for the female employees.

3. Intel (Santa Clara, CA

)Intel California

Sometimes, inclusion can come with a hefty price tag. Investing $300M in the Diversity in Technology initiative, Intel knows this firsthand. A program from that initiative pays $8000 to any employee that refers a female tech professional resulting in a hire. These efforts have already doubled the number of women hired for tech jobs here and will continue to help Intel reach its goal of full representation for female employees by 2020.

2. IBM (Armonk, NY)

IBM New York

When the CEO is a woman like IBM’s Ginni Rometty, the business unit leaders have to show her what they do directly to increase the number of female executives in their unit. It should come as no surprise that IBM has groomed seven diversity councils and implemented unconscious-bias education for all employees. Providing a welcoming environment for women and developing programs like the Technical Women Program—a program that promotes and supports the achievements of the women engineers and IT professionals at IBM—encourages female high performers in STEM arenas to continue climbing IBM’s ranks.

1. Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX)

Texas Instruments Texas

Texas Instruments knows how to implement programs that specifically target and empower women. The Women in Technical Leadership initiative assists early and mid-career women with career planning by engaging them professionally with higher level executives. Forums, workshops, mentoring initiatives, and summits dedicated to just women constantly strengthen the female talent and leader pool. This commitment to inclusion and female leadership seems to have paid off since, as of last year, the board of directors at Texas Instruments is 42% women.


Data source: STEM companies included in this list came from the 2016 NAFE “Top Companies for Executive Women” list. Filters were added to consider only companies in these STEM fields: healthcare, telecommunications, technology, chemicals, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.

Tags: women & girls, jobs & workforce