STEM Beats - women & girls

The Ongoing Plight of Girls in STEM

October 19, 2017

As the nation reckons with the retrograde or often demeaning messages so many women encounter throughout their lives, it seems a good time to remember how these messages exacerbate gender imbalances in STEM.

A pair of sticker books published together in 2011 and still in wide circulation offer a startling illustration of the problem:

In page after page, the books imply that boys can aim for the stars (quite literally) while girls should have decidedly more domestic ambitions. (See hereherehere, here, or here, for more examples.) For all the strides we have made in the last decade, our culture is still awash in this sort of thing.

It's hard to be surprised, therefore, that girls still tune out of STEM before high school. Here's some recent, and depressing, evidence from the most recent Nation's Report Card in science:

Conversations about the messages we unwittingly send girls can be uncomfortable, but silence is certainly worse.

Tags: women & girls

Eye-Popping Gains in Computer Science!

August 2, 2017

All too often, stories about education reform start with herculean efforts and end with anemic results. Fortunately, the story of at least one large national reform movement is poised to have a happier ending. The push to expand computer science in K-12 is already yielding impressive results.

According to early data from The College Board via Code.org, the numbers of high schoolers taking any Computer Science AP more than doubled between 2016 and 2017. The numbers for girls and students of color grew even faster--135 percent and 170 percent, respectively. The College Board's new test--AP Computer Science Principles--contributed most of those gains. 

AP CS Exams chart
Source: Code.org

Girls rose from roughly 18 percent to 27 percent of all test takers from 2013 to 2017, and students of color advanced from 12 to 20 percent over the same period. If we keep to this pace, we can close the gaps in gender and race/ethnicity in just over a decade. For ed reform veterans who are used to the snail's pace of change in education, those numbers are eye-popping.

Technology companies, visionary state leaders, and organizations like The College Board and Code.org have fueled this growth through their full-throated advocacy and support. Employers raised a hue and a cry about computer science in schools and joined other advocates in urging states to guarantee computer science classes every high school. The College Board created Computer Science Principles to introduce students to "the underlying principles of computation," and organizations like Code.org have helped prepare students for the test through new courses and teacher training.

CTEq just included two such courses in STEMworks, our honor roll of programs that stand up to rigorous review. Code.org's AP Computer Science Principles course "introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and challenges them to explore how computing and technology can impact the world." 

Computer Science Discoveries, also from Code.org, targets seventh- to ninth-graders, empowering them "to develop digital and physical projects using creativity and problem solving in a fun, collaborative environment." Both courses are filling a vacuum in our nation's middle and high schools, where computer science courses have been as rare as hen's teeth, even as the tech revolution has raged just beyond their walls.

Indeed, last year, CTEq released grim data on access to computer science classes by race and ethnicity::

Race determines access to computer science classes

Given the new data on AP participation, we have high hopes that these numbers will change for the better:

Of course, that won't be the whole story. CS advocates have a monumental task ahead of them, even as they expand access: They must train thousands more teachers to teach the new courses, and those teachers need to lift their students over the AP tests' high bar.

No easy task, but we're off to a good start.

Tags: computer science, women & girls, minorities

Guest Blog: Girls Should Feel Like They Belong in STEM

August 1, 2017

STEM education is as crucial as the air we breathe. We can find its influence everywhere. Yet, there remains a low percentage of students graduating with STEM literacy. As told by the Business Roundtable, “thirty-eight percent of companies say that at least half of their entry-level job applicants in the U.S. lack even basic STEM skills.”  

http://changetheequation.org/sites/default/files/BasicStemSkillsGap_V2.jpg

It is our job as industry leaders, educators and communities to do more to expose and encourage students to these principles, especially young women. According to the U.S. Census, “women make up nearly half of the workforce, [and] they were 26 percent of the STEM workforce in 2011.” Techbridge Girls (TBG) and the 49ers STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Education program are moving the needle to change not only the statistics but also the narrative and industry so more girls can feel they belong. Both programs focus on providing accessible, free, informal learning opportunities to populations that are under resourced. Our organizations are laying the foundation to bridge the gender and socioeconomic gap in STEM professions and removing barriers that prevent marginalized communities from reaching success. Techbridge Girls has a 17-year track record, reaching over 7,000 girls from low-income communities in Title 1 schools across our three regions (Pacific Northwest, California and D.C. Metro Area) with girl-centric and culturally-responsive STEM enrichment programming. TBG also builds the capacity of educators across the country so they understand how to deliver high-quality STEM enrichment programs that recruit, engage and retain girls – especially in low socioeconomic communities. The 49ers STEAM Education Program has served 150,000 participants in the three years since it’s been established, with half of all participating students coming from Title 1 schools. Among other STEAM focused initiatives, the 49ers have also wrapped up the second year of their teacher professional development platform in STEAM integration and Project Based Learning serving 190 educators to date.

Being intentional in exposing students to STEM ideas that connect to their everyday life can ignite and push students to new pathways in their education. In a Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) survey done by Nation’s Report Card, “It is more likely for students to tinker and troubleshoot outside of school than in school,” which are both key components of STEM. It is essential to craft relevant real-world experiences for students that go beyond the classroom in order to reinforce this type of thinking.

Techbridge Girls does this by offering year-round and summer-based afterschool programs for girls from low-income communities in grades 4 – 12. Techbridge Girls’ curriculum is research-driven and implements holistic interventions that engages girls through hand-on activities that bring STEM concepts to life so they can see how STEM is a vehicle to change their circumstances and the world around them. Similarly, the 49ers STEAM Education Program hosts students in grades K-8 and teaches STEAM concepts through a 49ers Museum tour, Levi’s® Stadium tour, standards-aligned STEAM lesson and a movement lab. During a five-hour session, participants can learn a variety of information, including all about the evolution of football equipment and how a material scientist contributes to its creation, to the importance of preserving history in relation to art, culture and the technology that helps make it possible.

In collaboration with Techbridge Girls, the 49ers STEAM Education Program hosted over 100 girls for a field trip to Levi’s Stadium to learn about the engineering and design process and its relationship to the game of football. Together, Techbridge Girls and the 49ers co-designed a field trip experience that aligns with both pedagogies and infused a mentorship component where a dozen 49er women employees were able to connect and draw parallels to their work and lives of the girls. This opportunity allowed Techbridge Girls participants to see STEAM in their day-to-day, from the concrete they walk on to graphics they see on TV. Most importantly, they saw that women contribute to the success of a sports organization.

This is just one piece of the puzzle. The 49ers and Techbridge Girls are working on lesson materials that will live in Techbridge Girls’ curriculum as well as collaborating on how both of their professional development platforms can reach a broader audience. It is not only important that girls get exposure to STEM but that educators and school programming give girls the tools to help them succeed. The Techbridge Girls and 49ers STEAM Education Program collaboration is a partnership that offers innovation, high-quality pedagogy and cutting-edge technology and it provides more students the opportunity to learn about STEM and all of the benefits it can provide.

Our end goal is to equip more young girls with the confidence to charge powerfully into school subjects and careers that are underrepresented by their gender. Bringing more and more girls into this equation will not only transform their life but the STEM industry and our world.

 Nikole Collins-Puri is the CEO at Techbridge. She co-authored this piece with Sofy Navarro, San Francisco 49ers STEAM Education Manager.

Tags: women & girls, guest blog

Five Top STEM High Schools for Inclusion & Equity

June 15, 2017

The U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of the Best High Schools for STEM across the nation. Schools like these help address STEM skills shortages felt by employers nationwide. But some of the schools on this list are especially dedicated to addressing the STEM challenges of inclusion and equity with programs and recruitment efforts that strengthen STEM pipelines for underrepresented groups. These high-achieving STEM schools make sure to serve the women, low-income, African American, and Hispanic students in their communities. Because the future of innovation relies heavily on our ability to find talent in untapped markets, we love to see schools ensuring STEM literacy for ALL. Check out these five champions of inclusion and equity in STEM education based on our analysis of the best high schools for STEM:

5. Early College at Guilford (Greensboro, NC)

National Ranking: #62

STEM Ranking: #4

Inclusion & Equity Score: 14/19

Early College at Guilford, the third ranked school in North Carolina, stands out because its students graduate with a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit from Guilford College. For those studying STEM subjects, this combination of diploma and college credits can lead to jobs with a strong living wage in a state where the median earnings for STEM jobs more than double the median earnings for all other jobs. That’s especially good news for the Early College’s 10 percent of students in the free and reduced lunch program if they or their families are unable to afford additional schooling.  

4. Troy High School (Fullerton, CA)

National Ranking: #326

STEM Ranking: #25

Inclusion & Equity Score: 17/19

The Troy Tech Magnet Program at Troy High School helps 93 percent of its student population reach proficiency or better in math, well above the California school district’s average (58 percent). These numbers are impressive considering too few students in the state, particular students of color, have access to knowledgeable STEM teachers. But with some of the best teachers in the state of California, Troy seems to tackle this problem well. Strong teachers paired with challenging STEM AP course offerings earns the 30-year-old STEM program in this diverse school a spot on the U.S. News' list.

3. Academy for Allied Health Sciences (Scotch Plains, NJ)

National Ranking: #200

STEM Ranking: #28

Inclusion & Equity Score: 17/19

The diversity of the student body at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences very closely mirrors that of the U.S. population, making it the most racially and socio-economically representative STEM school on our list. Also, we’re happy to see 91 percent of the largely female student-body (67 percent) scoring proficient or better in math; this is quite an accomplishment since female high school students in New Jersey lag behind their male counterparts in math performance.  Through challenging STEM coursework and learning opportunities at healthcare facilities, the school ensures student preparation for college and careers as doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals. Just as impressive, the economically disadvantaged students (13 percent of those enrolled) at the Academy perform substantially better than the non-disadvantaged students—a sign that students' income does not correlate with school performance here.

2. DeBakey High School for Health Professions (Houston, TX)

National Ranking: #18

STEM Ranking: #9

Inclusion & Equity Score: 19/19

We can imagine having an affiliation with the Houston Premedical Academy at the University of Houston makes DeBakey High School a future doctor’s dream school. Speaking of STEM pathways, entrance into the Houston Premedical Academy—a program designed especially for DeBakey students—gets you provisional acceptance into the Baylor College of Medicine. Since women tend to dominate many health professions, it may not surprise you that 59 percent of DeBakey students are women. But a little under half, 42 percent, of the school’s population qualifies as economically disadvantaged. Even though women and minorities make up more than half of Texas’s population, those groups are much less likely to become STEM professionals. Debakey’s programs help pave the way to STEM jobs for many of Texas’s underserved youth.

1. School for the Talented and Gifted (Dallas, TX)

National Ranking: #4

STEM Ranking: #6

Inclusion & Equity Score: 19/19

The numbers just don’t lie. Sixty percent of the children enrolled in this school are women, 63 percent minority, and 27 percent in the free and reduced lunch program. But what’s really catching our eye is that 100 percent of the students considered disadvantaged scored proficient or above in math! Because this is a selective magnet program, the school receives funding based off it's ability to recruit and retain students outside of its local attendance zone. In a state where science and math performance is greatly divided by racial and income lines, this approach seems to work well. The stats clearly show that Dallas’ School for the Talented and Gifted has a formula for education that supports high-achievement for all of its diverse student body—no matter the ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Not to mention its partnerships with local universities increase students' STEM course offerings. This school just might have it all.

STEM high schools included in this list came from the 2017 U.S. News & World Report STEM Rankings. CTEq’s Inclusion & Equity Scores were based off a point system rewarding schools for the percentage of female students, the total percentage of minority students, the representation of black and Hispanic students, and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. 

Tags: minorities, women & girls, STEM, Top 5

Michigan Tackles its STEM Challenge--with CTEq's Help

March 9, 2017

In the past few years, Michigan has roared back to life as a magnet for STEM jobs like engineering, and the state's employers are right to wonder if they will be able to fill those jobs with qualified people. Fortunately, we see strong signs that Michigan leaders are on the case.

On Tuesday, I was honored to testify before Michigan's House Education Reform Committee about Change the Equation's efforts to help the state identify and scale K-12 STEM education programs that are most likely to have an impact. CTEq's STEMworks has already helped rigorously-vetted programs, such as Engineering is Elementary and Project Lead the Way, receive $1 million in state funds. We have high hopes for much more to come.

Efforts like these are very timely. For a state that was ground zero in the Great Recession, Michigan has an uplifing story to tell about STEM jobs. For example, it has been a great place for engineers. The number of engineering jobs in the state grew 11 percent from 2006 and 2016, compared to a meager 2 percent for the nation as a whole. Engineering jobs will probably grow another 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the 11 percent projected for the nation. That amounts to tens of thousands of engineering jobs.

Will employers be able to find the engineering talent they need over the coming decade? That's a harder question to answer. There is some reason for concern. First, they cannot fully tap the state's minority talent. Black, Latinos, and American Indian Michiganders make up 23 percent of the state's college-age population but receive only 5 percent of engineering degrees and certificates:

Underrepresented minorities in engineering

Women are almost as scarce in the field:

Few female engineers

There's good news on the horizon: In late 2015, the state adopted academic standards in science that formally incorporate engineering principles. If other states that have adoped similar standards are any indication, all Michigan students, regardless of race or gender, will soon learn the fundamental principles of engineering.

Programs like those in STEMworks will only help.

Tags: STEMworks, engineering, women & girls, minorities

Pages