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”.
The Brookings STEM Report offers an analysis of the occupational requirements for STEM knowledge. How does “The Hidden STEM Economy” impact you?
Dr. Flowers will be on Houston News Makers with Khambrell Marshall on KPRC Local 2 Sunday at 10am right after Meet the Press with David Gregory.
The Ethnic-minority Difference
Large urban school districts across the nation report that they are making progress educating minority students; however, behind the numbers is a stark contrast between the higher performing Hispanic students, and Black students who continue to be left behind. The reality is the achievement gap is closing at a faster pace for Hispanic students, and the answer might be in the rigorous English as second language (ESL) training Hispanic students receive starting in early education.
It is important that the reporting of academic performance data lumping Black and Hispanic student results together does not continue to disillusion parents, students, and policy makers. The observed results might cause you to think that things are getting better across the board; however, a different picture emerges when you separate the two groups. Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail, reports that between 2002 and 2011 Black student’s readiness benchmarks rose from 3% to 4% while that of Hispanic students rose from 8% to 11%. The College Board reports that in 2010, Black students made up 14.6% of high school graduates and 8.6% of AP test takers; contrast that with Hispanic students who made up 17% of the graduates and 16% of AP test takers.
The numbers make it clear that the same improvements are not being equally achieved by both groups. Certain school districts have observed that the progress seen in Hispanic students can be attributed to strong teachers, the likelihood of attending better-funded majority Caucasian schools, the school culture in majority Hispanic schools being based on connections to family, and the heavy emphasis on teachers receiving professional development in teaching English as a second language to cope with this burgeoning population.
These facts suggest increased performance ratings in math and science can be attributed to the language improvements of Hispanic students. I discovered early on in my research through CSTEM, an authentic approach to integrating STEM into Pre K through 12th curriculum, that student’s not possessing adequate communication skills (i.e. reading, writing, and speaking) generally lag behind in math and science. Recent data and my research therefore lead me to the conclusion that the emphasis on ESL for Hispanic students should also be in place for Black students.
There is a great need to get back to the basics with Black students who lag behind in their grasp of the English language, not because it is their second language, but rather because a vast number of Black students communicate at home and with their peers using Slang/Broken English/Ebonics, which ultimately spills over to how they communicate at school and when writing. Oftentimes in communities serving majority Black students, strong grammar and English teachers are not consistent throughout their Pre K through 12th grade education journey. So once these students begin falling behind, there is very little teacher professional development training that focus on tackling this issue in order to improve the grammar and English language deficiencies of such students. Furthermore, schools tend to offer remediation to Black students focused more on drills, memorization and practice questions for passing state standardized test, rather than mastery of fundamentals of English and Language Arts.
The academic challenges faced by Black and Hispanic students are clearly different, and if we are not careful when lumping the two groups together, we will continue to miss the true picture behind the data. Having a clear understanding allows our schools to be better able to pinpoint best practices and offer services that truly aid in reducing the achievement gap for these very distinct groups of students. It is my belief that a renewed emphasis on the development of grammar and English for Black students will result in producing a greater number of math and science scholars of the future. The concern is failure to address this issue of grouping all minorities together will only lead to a further widening of the achievement gap, where Black students are the ones who truly get left behind, particularly in areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Art education is important in the development of creativity within children and serves as an outlet for student expression. When school budgets are cut, art programs are traditionally the first to be eliminated. All of the talk about STEM has over shadowed the decline of art education programs in P-12 schools. We believe the integration of art into STEM education is a viable solution.
Many of our schools face challenges in creating and sustaining quality learning experiences for all children. The key to getting it right is for schools to be flexible, open to collaborative partnerships, and having a willingness to re-invent themselves. Simply said, there is no one-size-fit all solution; the development of the right brain is just as important as the development of the left brain.
In 2007, Reginald Adams, the founder of MOCAH (Museum of Cultural Arts Houston), introduced CSTEM to, “Sacred Geometry – the geometric natural patterns, designs and structures in all forms of life.” Mr. Adams then introduced our organization to Bob Powell, who facilitated a series of math sessions with me and Steve Gomez, a robotics engineer and volunteer from Schlumberger. During these math sessions he shared with us the techniques he used to assist the world renowned artist, the late Dr. John Biggers’, with understanding the mathematics behind his artistry. The result of our “Sacred Geometry” sessions led to the development of math lessons that we currently use to teach students how to develop and use geometric shapes to create art masterpieces.
Integrating art into our curriculum has enabled us to provide thousands of students with little exposure to art education the opportunity to explore, discover, and express themselves creatively. We use painting and sculpting to help students understand math and science. As a result, we have observed students develop a love for math and science through their art experiences.
The CSTEM motto, “Everyone is an Artist and an Engineer,” is an attitude and skill that I believe everyone has and applies to some aspect of daily life, work, or a hobby. The principles used in art and engineering allow people to apply knowledge towards creative problem-solving. Through STEM education, CSTEM is keeping art alive in our P-12 schools. It is important that we restore the educational balance for our children. CSTEM + Art = Future Innovations.
The CSTEM Project GRAD Summer Camp 2011 was a complete success! The students were excited to showcase their completed work from the Robotics, Green (Eco-Friendly), Creative Writing and Art classes.[slideshow]
Yesterday, some of the CSTEM Project GRAD summer camp students joined Deborah Duncan on KHOU Great Day Houston. The episode featured a discussion about the increasing number of technology innovators. A group of our students attended the taping and camp participant, Sergio Cruz showed spectators a new use of the smart phone as a remote control. Sergio is going to use this robot for a robot soccer competition in the CSTEM Project GRAD 2011 Summer Camp Expo. The Expo will exhibit the projects the students have been working on in their classes. On Friday, June 30, the students will showcase their green (eco-friendly), robotics, creative writing and art projects.