STEM Beats - October 2016

New data: Inequities in K-12 science

October 27, 2016

This morning, The Nation's Report Card released good news. Since 2009, the nation's science scores rose in both fourth and eighth grades. Even more encouraging, black and Latino students gained on their peers, narrowing some of the gaps in student performance that have bedeviled education reformers for decades. Yet poor and minority students continue to lag far behind.

CTEq took a closer look at the new data, and what we found was unfortunately all too familiar. In 2015, the schools and teachers that serve the nation's poor and minority students still have have the least access to the materials and equipment students need to succeed in science.

They are more likely to attend classes with teachers who say they lack resources to succeed:

Poor and minority students' teachers lack access to teaching resources in science

Science teachers of low-income students have fewer teaching materials

Poor and minority students are also most likely to attend schools that lack supplies and equipment for science labs:

Minority students have less access to supplies or equipment for science labs

Low-income students have less access to supplies or equipment for science labs

These data are new, but the story they tell is not. Poor and minority students have long been last in line for opportunities to learn, and the new data show that we have yet to solve this problem. We can certainly take heart from the fact that test scores have risen somewhat over the past six years, but it is hard to imagine closing achievement gaps entirely without addressing these gaps in opportunity.

Fortunately, there are at least glimmers of hope. Top-flight science education programs CTEq has vetted through its STEMworks honor roll are already giving teachers the professional development and hands-on materials they need to succeed. (For two examples of STEMworks programs that have expanded to new communities in recent years, see ASSET STEM Education and the Science for Public Education Project). In addition, some schools are testing innovative approaches like virtual reality science labs that give students hands-on exposure to cutting-edge science, all without expensive equipment.

Programs and initiatives like these might contain the seeds of a new breakthrough for the nation's most disadvantaged children. it's time for the country to rally around them.

Tags: science, minorities

New Data: Good News for Computer Science and Engineering

October 25, 2016

The Great Recession put an exclamation point behind the message of STEM education advocates around the country. Amidst worsening unemployment and anxiety about an uncertain economic future, a credential in fields such as computer science and engineering promised stability and prosperity. CTEq’s new analysis of federal data on degrees and certificates awarded in the U.S. shows that Americans may have embraced this promise.

Since 2009, the number of degrees and certificates in computer science and engineering has grown much faster than the number of degrees and certificates overall.

CS & Eng Creds growing fast--chart

Overall, degrees and certificates below the bachelor’s level grew the fastest. In computer science and engineering, by contrast, the number of bachelor’s and advanced degrees has grown faster than the number of credentials below the bachelor’s level. That said, even subbacalaureate growth has been robust in these STEM fields:

Bach+ Degrees growing fastest

This trend towards bachelor’s and advanced degrees has changed the balance of computer science and engineering credentials since 2001:

Bach+ gaining ground in CS & Engineering

Why the growth in these STEM degrees and certificates? Americans seem to be responding to market forces, and the advantages of computer science and engineering degrees are attractive, especially and the bachelor's level and above. Vocal STEM champions--including CTEq--publicized the immediate rewards of STEM credentials, especially during the economic recovery. Take, for example, this overview of STEM unemployment from 2011 to 2014:

STEM Grads did best 2011-14

The employment advantage has held up well for computer science and engineering in 2016:

Low unemployment in CS & Eng

The earnings incentives for getting degrees in computing or engineering could hardly be clearer:

CS & Eng pay off

So what lessons can we take away from these recent data? Those of us who have been shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of an education in computer science and engineering can take heart that our messages are not falling on deaf ears.

Stay tuned in the coming week for more in-depth analysis of these trends by race and gender.

UPDATE: The analysis of credentials in computing and engineering relied on data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) from 2001 to 2015. Subbaccalaureate credentials include "postsecondary certificates," "associate's degrees," and "awards of at least 2 but less than 4 academic years. Bachelor's-plus degrees include "bachelor's degrees," "post-baccalaureate certificates," "Master's degrees," "Post-master's certificates," and "Doctor's degrees." Computing credentials include a broad range of computer science, information technology, and other computer-related degree and certificate programs. Engineering credentials include degrees and certificates in engineering technology, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and other engineering fields.

Tags: jobs & workforce, engineering, computer science

Is Any Good News about Girls and Computer Science Lurking Beneath All the Dismal Data?

October 24, 2016

There has been altogether too much bad news about girls and computer science in recent months. That said, there may be some good news hidden away from plain sight.

A recent Google and Gallup survey offers one of the more discouraging pieces of news.  Male students are much more likely than female students to say their parents or teachers encourage them in the field. Forty-six percent of boys and 27 percent of girls say a parent told them they would be good at computer science. Thirty-nine percent and 26 percent, respectively, reported the same thing from their teachers. Not surprisingly, girls report much lower confidence in their ability to succeed in computer science, and much less interest in even trying.

These dispiriting findings might explain why we haven’t made much progress in getting girls hooked on programming. According to recent federal data, the percentage of female 12th-graders who said they had ever taken a programming class dropped from 21 to 18 percent between 2013 and 2014. That’s a statistically-significant decline.

Is there any more hopeful news on the horizon? Perhaps. A CTEq analysis of 2012 data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and development found a “hidden computing workforce” that was roughly 40 percent female. These are people working in jobs that require sophisticated programming and networking skills, for example, even though their job titles don’t fit under any of the traditional STEM occupations. If we can turn these unsung women into role models, we might be able to present computing in a whole new light.

Off the Grid Infographic

A September study of job listings in the UK supports our finding of a hidden computing workforce. For example, job ads for “product, clothing and related designers,” “graphic designers,” and “artists” frequently required skills such as “Auto CAD,” “SQL,” “JavaScript,” “HTML5,” “Web Site Development,” “Python,” and “C++.” Jobs such as these don’t carry the taint of male dominance that jobs like computer programming or software development do, but they increasingly require some of the same training and skills.

Of course, we should never decide to give up on diversifying the ranks of computer programmers and software designers. That said, there are probably more women in computing than most of the studies acknowledge, and we might all benefit by celebrating what those women do.

Tags: women & girls, computer science

Six STEMworks Programs Receive a Major Endorsement in Indiana

October 13, 2016

Indiana’s I-STEM Resource Center is recommending six different science curricula in STEMworks as districts across the state gear up to adopt new curricular materials for science in 2017. A partnership of leaders in K-12 education, government, business, and universities, I-STEM worked with CTEq to identify programs that met our rigorous STEMworks criteria as well as exacting standards for science curriculum developed by I-STEM and the Purdue School of Engineering Education.

These aren’t your grandfather’s science curricula. Each engages students in hands-on, real-world experiences of science, engineering, and technology:

As districts adopt curriculum, these recommendations could carry substantial weight. Dozens of curriculum providers start knocking on district leaders’ doors when adoption time rolls around. CTEq and I-STEM are helping them separate the wheat from the chaff.

The partnership between CTEq and I-STEM represents a critical strategy to improve the quality of STEM education, one that we are pursuing in five other states and counting.

Tags: STEMworks

Guest Blog: Manufacturing Day

October 7, 2016

Today is Manufacturing Day – a day set aside every year when the men and women who make the products that change the world, celebrate those who experiment, invent and create.  Although for me and my Dow colleagues, every day is manufacturing day.

My story in manufacturing began when I was a young boy in Argentina, and since then has crossed businesses, borders, and even continents. It has led to a lifetime of being inspired by inventing and creating something new, something I could hold in my two hands; and by the diversity of experiences, cultures and challenges I experienced along the way. Yet today I see young people who don’t know that science, technology, engineering, and math careers are exciting, accessible, and full of opportunity.

The seeds of my career in manufacturing were planted a generation ago when my father, the first born in Argentina to a Spanish immigrant, began to work at seven years old. His education in the classroom ended early, but the lessons of the printing business helped him to support his family throughout his life. His work ethic inspired me. He was a “maker.” And he encouraged me to pursue math and science, because he saw a talent and an opportunity to go into a technical field and have a better life than he had.

That seed took root thanks to an elementary teacher who put chemistry in my hands as a young boy. Through a simple lab demonstration of distillation, I saw the magic of chemistry. My curiosity grew as I worked in a chemistry lab in high school. This set me on a chemical engineering track, and I’ve never looked back. A few years later, I found my way to Dow where my colleagues and I have shared different cultures and perspectives as we innovate our way towards solutions to the most difficult problems our world faces.

Developing solutions that make a difference in the world has captivated me from the time I was a young man working on solving challenges of the assembly of shoes. I’ve worked on dyes for the textile industry, seeing my labor reflected in the day’s fashions. I’ve worked in paper coatings and plastics. With chemistry, the work you do affects the world around you in clear ways. Pursuing this career, I’ve seen how the work I do makes the world better, and I’ve seen the world along the way.

Perhaps it is that young people today — or their parents — don’t think that manufacturing and science and math-based careers are accessible. They fear that they are too difficult, or that they are only for those who are mathematically gifted. I can tell you these careers are open to anyone. It takes people with different talents and skills to bring about waves of the future, such as the communications revolution we are living in today. Smart phones, the electric car, self-driving vehicles all are innovations that started with a student inspired by a teacher, supported by parents to make something that the world can use.

I see millennials drawn to work that is flashy and fashionable — business rather than engineering, banking rather than chemistry, the tech sector instead of the physical sciences. These are all worthy careers. But somewhere along the way, manufacturing was dismissed as dull work, and as jobs of the past or for those with limited options. The reality is far different. Careers in manufacturing are creative in the truest sense: you innovate as you produce. When you have a connection to making something the world wants or needs, you will know a deep satisfaction, like I have in my career.

Manufacturing careers are the key to a path of fulfillment for a new generation of young people who are tomorrow’s dreamers, inventors, and creators. And this generation understands our responsibility to our planet and can apply their creative talents to make manufacturing even more sustainable, and even more important in improving the lives of billions of people and the environment.

My parents in Argentina decades ago were really no different than parents today in the U.S. We all want our children to grow up to be successful, satisfied and responsible professionals. My parents knew the value of making something tangible and solving problems, and manufacturing today offers opportunities that my parents could have only imagined.

So, as we in the manufacturing world celebrate this recognition of our industry and all that we do, I encourage you to look around you today. The gadgets you use, the clothes that you wear, the vehicle you drive — these are all possible because someone in the manufacturing world put their creativity, their passion and their talent into inventing, creating and building to make things that solve problems and improve peoples’ lives.

Pedro Suarez is the President of DOW USA.

Tags: guest blog

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