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The Diploma to College to Career Mismatch

Written By:  Reagan Flowers, PhD

It appears that minority students are less likely to enroll in college, remain in college, and are more likely to go directly to work post high school.  Factors impacting their choices to attend college are finances, access to opportunities, awareness, proper preparation, supportive networks, and exposure.  And for many minorities enrolled in college, they are first generation.

According to NCES, minority students are obtaining their high-school diplomas with completion rates in the U.S. for Hispanic’s being 76.3% and 72.5% for Black students. However, nationally these percentages are not representative of the number of minority students enrolling in colleges, 17% Hispanic and 14% Black.

The mismatch in the numbers does cause one to wonder how this has come to be.  I wonder if today’s high school graduates have determined that they will yield less of a return on their investment in a college degree if it is not in a STEM field.  Additionally, I wonder if high school graduates see more of an income advantage in forgoing a college degree and going directly to work in a blue-collar STEM field.  Looking further into gender numbers, there are more females enrolling in college than males.  The low enrollment numbers of males in college suggests that they experience more pressure to earn wages right after high school as opposed to females. The practicality of forgoing college long-term, in most instances, is not good. Such decisions create economic gaps and stagnation.

A growing trend are student success programs that colleges are putting in place to increase minority student enrollment and completion rates.  There are designated institutions such as HBCUs, MSIs, and HSIs that are intentionally and thoughtfully creating environments to improve their overall numbers.  And, there are groups such as AHSIEHBCU Faculty Development Network, and PennGSE Center for Minority Serving Institutions that are sharing best practices to help move the needle.

A recent presentation of C-STEMs research on minorities and females attitudes towards STEM education and careers at an AHSIE conference was fairly consistent with common themes being expressed by colleges from across the U.S.  We are not short on problems to solve, are working to eliminate the mismatches, and are increasingly using technology to identify and trigger responses to student academic and social challenges, sooner rather than later.

STEM: Are we really Making Progress

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

There were so many great take-a-ways from the Women’s Global Leadership Conference (WGLC) in Energy.  The Theme, “Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Leaders”, was well received.  It is hard to imagine how anyone could have left not feeling inspired, encouraged, energized, more knowledgeable, and dreaming bigger.
Leading in male dominated industries can be challenging.  It was refreshing to hear from women who are figuring it out and paving the way in STEM industries.


When we look at were we are currently with Women in STEM, data shows that we must begin in elementary school with getting girls interested in science.  The gender gap widens in middle and high school, 3% to an 11% gap with boys demonstrating more interest than girls.

Some recommended best practices with getting girls more interested in STEM disciplines/careers includes:

  • Providing opportunities for girls to experience STEM as early as Pre Kindergarten to start building their confidence and to allow them to be wowed by what they can do and see the impact of applying what they know to something meaningful.
  • Use of inspiring messages and images that are not demeaning and don’t exacerbate gender biases or imbalances.
To continue to move the needle forward we have to do some things differently.  A great place to start is with ones self.  There is tremendous room for more individuals to take ownership by making a commitment to excellence to write a future for girls leading in STEM.  The call to action is to create, collaborate, and support opportunities that provide access to relevant high quality STEM learning experiences.
We are somewhat bridging the diversity and workforce readiness gap that exists in STEM fields of study and industries. It seems K-12 schools need additional support with bridging the information and knowledge gap that continues to persist, particularly with minorities and females.

How Curiosity Leads To a Rewarding Career with Jessica Autrey

Jessica Autrey on the STEMCast Podcast
Jessica Autrey is the Business Development Lead with AT&T Foundry For Connected Health. Jessica shares how she was able to combine her love of education, technology, and health into a successful career.

In this episode we discuss:
  • The joint venture between AT&T Foundry for Connected Health and the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute in Houston.
  • How start-up Aira and AT&T helped a Boston Marathon runner
  • Jessica’s advice on curiosity leading to career opportunities.

Sponsored by Halliburton.

STEMcast Podcast Hosted by Dr. Reagan Flowers

CSTEM-Podcast-AppStore

 

STEMCAST Introduction: Urban Nexus

Welcome to the CSTEM Urban Nexus Competition where Everyone is an Artist & an Engineer!  Dr. Reagan Flowers provides us with an overview of the 2016 Competition for Pre K through 12th grade students nationally.  Student’s experience STEM using robotics, civil engineering, computer programming, innovation, film making, photography, mural, and sculpture.  Listen Now!

 

Empowering Our Future: C-STEM’s Urban Nexus Youth Challenge
Dr. Assata Richards provides great insight on the correlation between sociology and STEM on how we need to understand the problems in society; yet preparing our students to become practitioners for advancement. How do you learn from the world around us?  Listen Now!

Education Reform: A Path Forward

education reform

The America COMPETES Act was passed in 2007, with an emphasis on technology and science, in an effort to promote and create opportunities for educational excellence. A reauthorization of the law was enacted a new reform of the law, dubbed the “Student Success Act”.   The proposed law would ban federal involvement in determining failing schools, eliminate required federal benchmarks for academic achievement, allow federal dollars for disadvantaged or disabled students to follow the pupil sort of like a voucher, and reduce the amount of federal dollars Title I school districts receive.

It is easy to see how many in the education reform crowd would support the idea, as it creates a pathway for students to leave failing schools and pursue their education at a school of their choice. The unintended consequence of such a policy would be a shift where public and charter schools will be competing to enroll students who qualify for those funds as a means of boosting the funds they receive. So while the schools benefit from the revenue that accompanies these students, the pupil does not necessarily receive the education they deserve, rather they end up with the same academic achievement outcomes they are experiencing today.

Not only will such a policy inevitably perpetuate widening of the achievement gap, it also stands to increase the disparity in public schools serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged students. The diminished learning opportunities will further bolster the inequity in urban vs. suburban education systems, and will further accelerate the closure of inner-city public schools, replacing them with charter and federally subsidized private schools.

The bigger concern for many public school advocates is the potential for the proposed Student Success Act to be the precursor for the evisceration of public school systems, in lieu of a further shift towards charter and privately run school systems.  Most public school advocates readily acknowledge that there are good and bad public schools, just as there are good and bad charter, private, and religious schools out there. One thing we know for certain is without Title I Federal funding, public schools serving high percentages of economically disadvantaged students would be greatly harmed by any reduction in the funding they receive. While many have been unsuccessful in their mission of providing equitable learning opportunities for their students, to withdraw funding at this point would only further turn a bad situation worse.

A better approach today would be to maintain Title I Federal funding based on the present formula, while implementing accountability measures that are meaningful and effective. Federal accountability guidelines should focus on improving early childhood education, reduce the emphasis on testing, tie teacher performance pay to innovative practices linked to student success, and create data share appendages to foster identification and sharing of best practices between the public and private educational complex.

Pointing the Finger

Over the weekend, I found myself engaging in several conversations regarding the unfortunate loss of life. It was extremely sad news to hear that a child lost his life as a result of playing with an airsoft-type pellet gun by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. There were many errors at play that led to this unfortunate incident. The obvious is poor communication. The “C” in C-STEM. Poor communication on part of the pellet gun manufacturer, 911 dispatcher, police officer, and parents of the 12 year old boy.

It is seemingly unreasonable to not hold manufacturers of pellet guns that look like real guns accountable for the lives that are unknowingly placed in danger. A news channel covering the story has shared that the type of pellet gun the child had in his possession generally has an orange tip at the end of the barrel indicating that it is not a real gun. I would have to argue that such a minimal indicator is not good enough. Why not an orange safety tip and orange handle? Why not regulate so that pellet guns cannot be manufactured in black or chrome?

The news reported that the orange indicator was not present on the pellet gun and according to experts made it look no different than a real gun. There must be some sort of liability on part of the manufactures designing, building, and selling pellet guns in stores for children. Many of us have purchased toys that have hazardous warning labels on them. I am curious to know if there was a hazardous label on the pellet gun that provided a warning regarding the dangers of removing the orange tip as it could easily be mistaken as a real gun by law enforcement; pointing or aiming the pellet gun at another person or living thing may alarm people around you and place your life at risk; and/or carrying the pellet gun as a weapon may cause someone to feel threatened.

Many of our public servants work hard at developing policy to regulate gun control with NRA. I think it is time for our public servants to work just as hard to regulate pellet gun control with manufacturers. There is an organization called “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” and I think this is a fine time to start “Mothers Against Pellet Gun Manufacturers”. It is time that the manufacturers effectively communicate the proper message with the use of pellet guns and design them such that there is no question that it is not a real gun.

I cannot stress the importance of developing the communication skills of children. Because if we fail to do so, they grow-up to be adults that lack effective communication skills. As part of this unfortunate situation, there was a dispatcher that failed to effectively communicate the alleged situation to the officer as it was reported by the 911 phone caller. The individual that made the 911 call obviously wanted the police to know that there was a possibility that the gun could be a fake. However, the dispatcher failed to convey that information to the police officer which heightened the severity of the situation. The dispatcher did not ask any clarifying questions of the 911 phone caller as to why it was believed that the gun could possibly be a fake or if the child was pointing the gun directly at people or if there were other people in the area that were obviously at risk. In the police officers response, it seemed completely evident from viewing the video that the officer did not communicate effectively with the child to gain control of what was perceived to be a threatening situation by the officer. Not to mentioned that the officer perceived a 12 year old boy to be a 20 year old man. As it relates to the parent(s) that purchased the pellet gun for the child, I am curious as to how they communicated with the child the proper way and place to use the pellet gun. As it relates to the school the child attended, I wonder what type of social emotional and character building activities/courses/programs/learning was offered to instill the level of discernment, character, thoughtfulness, and consideration that was needed to help him regulate his behaviors, be conscious of his environment, and aware of how people might perceive his actions.

In closing, I sincerely believe that it takes A Village to raise a child, I am equally curious as to what prevented the person who made the 911 phone call from making an attempt to speak with the boy about his public actions and handling of the gun, after all the 911 caller did not sound frightened, panicked, and even indicated that the gun was probably fake. Further, what prevented the caller from sizing up the situation and exploring options to intervene? I am not saying that anyone should put their life in danger, I am just wondering if the 911 caller ever considered becoming The Village for the child. It is obvious that he needed one.

Problem-Solvers are in High Demand

Engineers are in high demand throughout the world. From biomedical engineers to nuclear engineers. These careers require innovative creative thinkers to solve problems that we have throughout the world. They require higher levels of knowledge in math and science. We need to motivate our students to seek careers that are in high demand by encouraging them early on and doing so as they matriculate through the Pre K-12th grade trajectory to higher education. Their experiences in school need to be relevant, fun, innovative, balanced, exploratory, and interactive. Mostly, they must understand the importance of what they learn and how the information they have can be applied in the world. Children are naturally curious, so why not provide them the tools they need to expound on their natural curiosity. Everything starts from a single idea that you build on with intended outcomes. In many cases, a single idea yields dividends that would not have otherwise availed themselves, had you not taken action. Children are our future and they depend on us to prepare them to answer questions of the unknown and unforeseeable future.

Unable to Serve

I recently received an email that caused me to look at the education system from a different perspective. As a country we are failing to give our students the education that they need and deserve to stay competitive in the world.

There are three main expectations that the military has for someone to join. To be educated, physically fit, and have no criminal history. The first is one of the biggest reasons as to why people are unable to serve in the military. One out of four Americans do not have a high school diploma and even with a high school diploma some still lack the academic skills needed to join the military. The solution is for students to start receiving quality education as early as possible. They must be empowered with good information and have access to opportunities that provides them with competitive skills. Prekindergarten is a very important place to begin strengthening children’s cognitive skills. Studies show that students that start with a quality Pre K education have higher rates of high school graduation and lower rates of crime. I understand that children need hands on experiences early on in their education to engage them and keep them on track. C-STEM provides programs and activities that are hands-on, require critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of knowledge and skills as early as Pre K. We need to focus on what is best for our children as early as possible to prepare them to successfully navigate the maze of life’s journey. To be quite honest, we cannot start to early with educating our children, which means neonatal education is the best place to begin with ensuring that a child’s future is bright and full of promise.

Kids Growing-up In Poverty in the Most Powerful Country

Recent reports from a study published by JAMA Pediatrics show that the number of children in the United States living in poverty is at its highest in 20 years. The amount of federal money spent on children has declined since 2010 by billions of dollars. Children should not have to live in poverty in America. It becomes a chain reaction when children live in poverty.  With 1 in 4 kids not having enough access to food, the resulting outcome lends itself to health problems because they either go hungry or the food they consume is unhealthy.  Taking it even further, these kids have lower test scores and lower desires for education, which should be the focus of all children.  It is impossible for a kid to focus on learning when they are hungry and in some cases starving.  Heck, I cannot focus on learning when I am hungry.  The startling data published by JAMA clearly brings this issue to the forefront detailing why something must be done to eradicate hunger to make our future even brighter as we would not be leaving kids behind educationally as a result of hunger.  It is estimated that 20 percent of American children don’t have adequate access to healthy food. Resulting in their emotional, physical, and intellectual development becoming at risk.  This puts more of America’s children at a disadvantage. Let’s do our part and not let a single child go hungry, let’s feed their minds and bodies—let’s prepare them for a future they have not dreamed for themselves.