Dr. Reagan Flowers named in 100 Women in STEM

Dr. Reagan Flowers named in 100 Women in STEM

June 27, 2012 – In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),  STEMconnector™  is ready to unveil the hard copy and online versions of its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publication. With this publication, STEMconnector’s™ goal is to advance the cause of attracting more girls and women to STEM careers as our country´s economy relies more than ever on a prepared STEM workforce. Major credit is due to these 100+ women leaders who are paving the way for millions of women and girls in the STEM education pathway to STEM careers as we move beyond the 25% of women in STEM fields, according to Edie Fraser, CEO, STEMconnector™.

100 Women Leaders in STEM showcases the careers and initiatives of more than one hundred women leaders who are active role models for the underrepresented segment of women in America’s growing shortage of STEM professionals.  The publication features profiles of leaders in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors, including CEO´s, Presidents and key public officials, including four US Senators and the EPA / NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator respectively. (See complete list below).  Also included are Opinion Editorials featuring interesting data and perspectives about women in STEM. Commentary included is from the Society of Women Engineers; Abt Associates / TERC; Center for

Energy Workforce Development; American Association of University Women; Girls, Inc; National Science Foundation; US News and World Report; The American Institute of Architects, Aerospace Industries Association and Bayer USA Foundation.

Featured in 100 Women Leaders in STEM is Dr. Reagan Flowers, Founder and CEO of CSTEM Teacher and Student Support Services™, Inc. She is honored for her pragmatic understanding of effective STEM education reform in classrooms, which has been instrumental in developing curricula that remain focused on teacher development and student engagement in STEM.  “Nationally, ethnic-minorities and females are underrepresented in many STEM industries, which limit their participation in a variety of well-paid, high growth professions. It is through targeted efforts that women leaders are able to take advantage of the rich diversity of perspectives and inspiration that drives the very important work we do as role models and developers of the next generation of STEM leaders,” says Dr. Flowers.

Other women included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the STEM jobs pipeline. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says, “We need you and we need this generation of women to stand up and serve as role models to encourage young women to develop the critical skills needed for the competitive workforce of tomorrow.” Also included are insiders’ perspectives about the traits needed to advance in the STEM professions, and how women in particular can make a difference. As Susan O’Day of Disney reflects, “We need to be more aggressive in showing girls and young women role models and highlighting stories of successful leaders.”

The 100 Women Leaders in STEM launch takes place at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX on June 27, 28 and 29th. A reception hosted by Deloitte and AGU, will take place at 5:00PM on June 28, 2012. To view the full details of the launch and RSVP, visit STEMconnector.org/100women.  A follow up celebration for the 100 Women Leaders in STEM will be held in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 2012 at 5 PM.

About CSTEM™ – Since the organizations founding in 2002, CSTEM™ (communication, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Teacher and Student Support Services has positively impacted more than 50,000 students grades Pre K-12th and trained more than 500 teachers.  CSTEM™ is research based and designs STEM curricula collaboratively with industry professionals to connect classroom learning to the real world, increasing the STEM talent pool in related careers. CSTEM™ operates in school districts in Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and the Dominican Republic.  For additional information, visit www.cstem.org.

The Ethnic-minority Difference

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).

Funding STEM education

Funding STEM Education Programs

In a letter written by Greg Babe, President and CEO of Bayer Corporation, he reports that their survey of Fortune 1000 and emerging high-tech company CEO’s shows that they “get it”.  In so many words, these organizations realize that diversity, which encompasses ethnic-minorities and females, is essential to the sustainability and competitiveness of STEM industries.  Greg’s conclusion fits right in line with a position I have often stated, that it is imperative for private industry to partner with public programs that demonstrate a sustainable program model, have historical data showing program outcomes over time, and are scalable in a way that program impact can grow commensurate with the financial investment.

Past experience has shown us that effective private-public collaborations can work in a synchronistic fashion towards a common goal.  Corporations willing to invest both capital and sweat equity in the non-profits they support are better able to achieve intended outcomes.  And in the case of developing a STEM workforce, related industries should be investing for the long haul in public K-12 STEM programs.  Fortune 1000 companies are just that because their business model supports growth and meets the market’s demands; they make smart investments in the people and resources that help the organization operate on all cylinders.

Around 2006, we began to witness an emerging market of public programs focused on STEM education programming, and in 2009 President Obama’s State of the Union Address further cemented STEM education as a national priority.  Since then, organizations with no prior experience in STEM education have developed STEM programs to fit this trend, while still working to fulfill their core mission. This led to an explosion of programs creating STEM initiatives for the sole purpose of securing any available funding, without any real commitment or capacity to sustain these initiatives.  Some of this change was as a result of an internal push to ‘move with the cheese’, and for others it was the external push by corporations who shifted their education investment dollars towards STEM programming.

Many including myself, are increasingly concerned about the continual problems we face in education, despite billions of dollars being spent towards solutions seeking a problem to solve at the federal, state, and local level. People are rightfully beginning to ask, “why do we continue to have the same problems in education, particularly issues of reducing the achievement gap among ethnic-minority and females in STEM, despite all the money being spent”?

The answer in my opinion is simple: the longer we continue to fund initiatives with no track record of success, the further the deepening of the education crisis becomes.  It is time we focus on proven solutions, and developing them to a point where they are sustainable and brought to scale.  These solutions are found in programs that are successful at engaging both teachers and students in STEM collaboratively, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that these successful models are heavily championed, rather than being glossed over for the next NEW thing.

Keeping Art Alive using 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.