At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting this week, I attended the Future of STEM Education—Closing the Equity Gap session, led by Melissa Moritz, deputy director at the Office of STEM in the U.S. Department of Education.
The Equity Gap
No doubt about it—there is an equity gap. According to the Office of Civil Rights, of schools that are more than 75% black and Hispanic–
- 33% offer calculus, compared with 56% of high schools that have 25% or less black and Hispanic enrollment.
- 48% offer physics, compared with 67% of high schools that have 25% or less black and Latino student enrollment.
- 65% offer chemistry, compared with 78% of high schools that have 25% or less black and Latino student enrollment.
- 71% offer Algebra II, compared with 84% of high schools that have 25% or less black and Latino student enrollment.
Remediation rates at colleges are high, and one reason may be the lack of math and science courses taught in high school. Graduating kids from high school without having taught them the background they need to succeed “lies to kids,” Moritz said.
Computer Science for All
A suite of resources available to help close the gap is the Obama administration’s Computer Science for All program, a $4.1 billion proposal that would support efforts to expand access. The site is fairly robust, even including commitments not unlike CGI’s Commitments to Action. For example, Apple has committed to expanding coding opportunities for children, and even Cartoon Network has committed to a $30 million campaign to engage children in creative coding.
For teachers, a useful website is Building STEM Teacher Leadership, which provides teacher competencies, beliefs, and content knowledge as well as other resources.
At the Exploring Computer Science site, you’ll find resources for teachers, students, and anyone interested in learning more about computer science and closing the equity gap. ECS’s mission is to increase learning opportunities in computer science in the Los Angeles Unified school district, but the site is worth exploring no matter where you live.
Why such an emphasis on computer science? Apart from the needs of a tech-based economy, “Computer science gets kids involved in school in a way that traditional subjects don’t,” Moritz says. There’s even talk of codifying computer science skills for K-12.
The session closed after attendees—leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors—explored numerous strategies for expanding access to underrepresented groups.
For more about CGI, visit its website.