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.
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.
The great equalizer is ‘higher education’. It is well known that not everyone will obtain a college degree. Today, higher education whether a degree or certificate program, is required to take advantage of the tremendous work opportunities that currently exist or that are projected to be available in the not so distant future. C-STEM emphasizes the importance of education because it helps students develop critical thinking skills, unleash their creativity, and figure out what they are passionate about in life. It is important for educators to encourage students to embrace the journey of knowledge expansion. More than ever before, I am witnessing low skills jobs requiring increased technology, communication, and literacy skills which in some cases are not cultivated sufficiently during high school thus requiring post high school training. Studies show that the median income of a recent college graduate is $17,000 more than the median income of a high school graduate. Unfortunately, the gap continues to grow larger and is the reason First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing her new campaign “Reach Higher.” Her new movement emphasizes on getting more people to pursue an education past high school, whether it be professional training, community college, or a four-year university degree. The First Lady’s initiative combined with many others such as the work UNCF and C-STEM is doing, will increase the number of students considering and seizing opportunities that are available post high school through higher education.
For many years C-STEM teachers have been utilizing online courses and resources to enrich STEM learning in their classrooms. Many have adopted this format to maximize classroom time with students and have provided students the framework and platform to maximize their out of class time to remain on track with school work and to get ahead with course work. I have found as well as many of the teachers I work with, that online courses supports the integration of relevant material to connect classroom learning to the real world. A relatively new find for me are the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) list that are free through different websites. Colleges and universities share their classes with these websites, and that is how the information of the courses are shared. An example of a course that is provided through the MOOC list is a Calculus course offered by the University of Michigan that is offered at no charge through Coursera (one of the websites that offer this courses). The online course allows teachers to have their students establish accounts and follow the curriculum throughout the semester. This is a great opportunity for educators to become more creative in the classroom because of the extra time they can build into the instructional day to reinforce concepts, engage students in project based learning to support application of their knowledge and skills as well as assess student proficiency beyond paper tests and quizzes. I have also found that MOOC lists are great for parents and mentors who are working on improving their child/children skill-sets in literacy and STEM content areas.
In the UK, the Department of Education published a report in June on how they could implement this type of medium into their classrooms. The study suggests that in the future, MOOC’s will not replace classroom teachers; however, they will become a staple used in classrooms around the world.
This year the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to receive an education.”
Every year the Nobel Peace Prize is given to the person who has done the most for betterment of peace between nations, reduction or abolition of armies, and for holding and promoting peace congresses.
Yousafzai, 17, was shot when she was only 15 by Taliban militants. She sought education but because she was a girl it went against their beliefs and they shot her. Yousafzai traumatic experience did not cause her to waiver from her beliefs towards promoting rights to education for children and woman around the world. After receiving the award she becomes the youngest Nobel laureate ever.
Satyarthi, 60, is an activist against the exploitation of children around the world. He has helped millions of children by mounting raids on factories that forced children into labor as well as freeing and rehabilitating them.
“It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected,” said Satyarthi It will allow for children to learn that education will open doors and will affect generation to come.
Students in the state of Texas are not receiving the skills they need to stay competitive when it comes to finding a STEM related job. The students that lack the most proficiency in math and science are minorities. In 2013, 53% of Caucasian students in Texas that were in the 8th grade had proficiency in math compared to 21% by African American students and 29% by Hispanic students. By providing a strong foundation in math and science we can ensure that they are ready for college-level courses so that they can be successful in STEM related fields. STEM jobs in Texas have continued to be in high demand.
My passion and drive for helping children learn and succeed runs deep. As a child I failed the second grade and was, unfortunately, labeled a slow learner. Since education wasn’t reinforced in my broken home I was simply promoted from one grade level to the next one without acquiring basic skills. Subsequently, I was moved to a small town in Mississippi and attended a rural school where, for the first time, teachers invested in me personally and made me feel like I could achieve. I was a fifth grader when I started that school, but I’d never learned to multiply. With the support and guidance of several caring teachers I began to thrive as a student, and during my sixth grade school year I’d made the honor roll and was even becoming a math wiz! Thus, my calling to help other children rise above their challenges began.
I started my career as a science teacher at Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas. In an effort to give my students hands-on experiences with real world problems, I enrolled them in a national robotics competition. Those students, who were of mixed performance levels on campus, had no prior robotics experience nor had they been placed in such a competitive environment. My students were initially intimidated and doubtful about the competition. However, the group outperformed everyone’s expectations. While their performance in the competition was encouraging, it was also very humbling because I saw first-hand the stark reality of the vast academic achievement gap between my students and their peers from other schools. This experience caused me to take up a new mission: closing the academic achievement gap.
In 2002, I founded C-STEM (Communication-Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) Teacher & Student Support Services, Inc, the first integrated Pre K through 12th grade STEM enrichment program in the nation. The distinguishing factors of C-STEM Pedagogy and research model include: integrating communications (literacy) in STEM to ensure students can read, comprehend, write, and articulate solutions to math and science problems; implementing a curriculum influenced by STEM industries; developing a unique collaborative model that creates Pre K -12th grade pipelines; supporting interdisciplinary teacher teams through training and supplemental workshops; providing schools with innovative STEM instructional tools and resources; and developing competitive environments that support high performance and accountability for both teachers and students. In implementing C-STEM I have found teachers to be more effective in the classroom with connecting state approved curriculum to the real-world, which allows students to think critically and problem-solve. I find that C-STEM students are particularly drawn to the program because it helps them understand how STEM applies to their life and the world
It is imperative that our schools remain leading authorities in STEM education worldwide. To accomplish this, educators must have adequate training, funding, and partnerships that aid in their development and leadership. This enables teachers to continue to inspire innovation, creativity, and exploration with their students. In my efforts I’ve also recognized that economic development in STEM is instrumental to future innovations. This is why my STEM approach provides support and services aimed at creating and sustaining STEM learning environments that are inclusive, equitable and level the playing field for the underserved and underrepresented. Children cannot dream or become that which they have not been exposed to, which is why opportunities provided by C-STEM create unlimited possibilities in communities across the United States.
Since founding C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc. in 2002, the organization has grown from 20 students working out of the janitor’s workspace in a school building to impacting over 100,000 students. I have great success stories of students impacted by C-STEM that have completed college, are currently working as STEM professionals, volunteer with C-STEM, train teachers, mentor students and donate to support the organization that supported them. Their success and my triumph is proof that every student has potential and promise. At C-STEM, “Everyone is an Artist and an Engineer”.