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Bonnie Sutton

Report Dissects the Data on Underrepresented Students in STEM - 4 views

Underrepresented Students STEM findings minorities

started by Bonnie Sutton on 12 Apr 12
  • Bonnie Sutton
    Report Dissects the Data on Underrepresented Students in STEM

    The Level Playing Field Institute published a new report last week on the current state of STEM education as it relates to underrepresented students in California. The report, Dissecting the Data 2012: Examining STEM Opportunities and Outcomes for Underrepresented Students in California, examines the progress in STEM of African-American and Latino students, two subgroups who are underrepresented in STEM fields relative to the overall population, and makes recommendations for improving student access and preparation in these fields. As an update to the original 2010 report, the new report examines the most recent data on STEM preparation from K-12 through higher education in California and also highlights national and international comparisons in STEM education and outcomes.

    The report highlights several key findings:

    In the early elementary grades, African-American and Latino students demonstrate much lower STEM proficiency rates than their White and Asian peers, and these trends persist.
    For example, in 5th grade science, just 43% of African-American and 45% of Latino students reached proficiency, compared to nearly 80% of Asian and White. By 6th grade forty-six percentage points separate African-American (35%) and Asian students (81%) in mathematics proficiency.
    In the middle and high school years, proficiency rates decline and African-American and Latino students are less likely to access and achieve success in rigorous college-preparatory coursework than their White and Asian peers.
    For example, 8th grade Algebra I is viewed as a critical gatekeeper course, yet the majority of African-American and Latino students don't enroll until 9th grade. Of those who did enroll in 8th grade Algebra I, just 29% of African-American and 37% of Latino students reached proficiency.
    Also, African-American and Latino students are considerably underrepresented in AP coursework in math and science. Latino students represent 18% of AP science and 19% of AP math test-takers, although they represent 48% of the high-school aged population in California. African-American students represent only 2% of the AP math and science test takers in California, roughly a third of their percentage within the high-school aged population.
    African-American and Latino students are severely underrepresented in STEM enrollment in higher education in California, and demonstrate shockingly low retention and graduation rates within STEM fields.
    There are only 4,405 African-American students enrolled in STEM disciplines across both the University of California and the California State University entire systems (3% of the population). Latinos account for only 18% of the STEM majors across both University systems. Additionally, only 72 African-American students are enrolled in computer science across the UC system.
    The report concludes that profound inequities are present in both access and outcomes throughout the STEM education pipeline and makes several recommendations for improving the preparation of underrepresented students of color for success in STEM education and careers. To learn about the rest of the findings and the recommendations, read the full report.
  • Harry Keller
    These are serious numbers. The computer science number is especially shocking. What recommendations does anyone suggest to turn these numbers around?
  • Harry Keller
    Here are recommendations from the report.

    1. Increase training and professional development opportunities for teachers within science and mathematics from pre-service to career, to ensure that teachers are prepared with both content knowledge and pedagogical skills to deliver effective instruction to all students.

    2. Expand programs that develop early interest and counteract psychological barriers to STEM among underrepresented groups, especially through the promotion of hands-on instruction in the early grades, extracurricular activities in middle and high school, and mentorship programs.

    3. Increase access to rigorous and Advanced Placement courses in mathematics and science to ensure underrepresented students of color enroll in larger numbers in the courses necessary to prepare for college- level work.

    4. Expand STEM acceleration and pre-college bridge programs to ensure students who have demonstrated interests in STEM fields complete high school with the skills needed to persist and graduate with degrees in STEM.

    5. Expand higher education programs that recruit and retain scholars of color in STEM fields and ensure their completion of STEM degrees (through mentorship, financial assistance, peer and faculty networks).
  • Harry Keller
    Here are my remarks on the recommendations.

    1. Definitely improve training and support for science and math teachers. Change the way education colleges prepare these people.

    2. Definitely expand those programs and implement them where they don't exist. However, we have to do more than just early-grade hands-on programs. We must have good role models in STEM careers to counter others that have less chance of being successful careers. It's more likely to win a Nobel prize in science or medicine than to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, for one example. This topic demands much more space that I can use here.

    3. Advanced Placement is not a panacea but may help. For us to put unprepared students into these courses, we must have really good teachers. It can be done but not simply by administrative fiat.

    4 & 5. Good ideas but not game-changers. We must do more.

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