STEMing Up During Summer

Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD

The first day of summer is fast approaching. Schools across the U.S. are preparing to downsize for the summer months and are re-tooling for the upcoming school year. There are students preparing for summer camps, adventures, and vacations; while others are preparing for whatever the day brings.

During the academic year, every student enrolled in a school excelled at learning something because of their teachers, mentors, peers, siblings, and/or family members.

I find summer to be a perfect time to add to students’ personal stories of achievement with experiences that add value and propels them towards what will come next in their learning journey.

Because students do not choose the life they are born into, making available summer STEM programs aid them in choosing paths, and seizing opportunities that will make their collective hopes and dreams a reality. It is important that our students understand that each of their paths are different. Their experiences are not all equal or equitable and as a result the road to accomplishing their goals could be longer or shorter and filled with challenges or lucky breaks.

No matter what some might think, summer for students offers a window of time that should be filled with learning experiences that are positive, enlightening, inspiring, challenging, engaging, fun, and empowering.

Let’s face it, whether we are working to achieve success with creating awesome memories or being a scholar, it will only be achieved through demanding work, commitment, focus, determination, endurance, gratitude, humility, thoughtfulness, failure, and a good balance of knowing when not to take yourself too seriously.

STEM summer experiences aid students in taking closer steps towards achieving the life they hope and dream for themselves. It is important that students are directed during the summer to not limit themselves, set grand expectations, and to push beyond urges to spend time on activities that will cause the valuable time of summer to slip away.  Resulting in having nothing good to show for their time.

The learning gains achieved during the summer months helps to remove barriers that limit opportunities, restrict exposure, and stifles competitiveness. Students that do their part as scholars, thoughtful leaders, and examples of what is good in the world, continue to make advancements and eventually take hold of futures better than what many of them inherited at birth.

All students can have awesome STEM summers whether enrolling in a camp or assuming a curious, creative, and innovative mindset that leads to STEM discoveries at home, in their neighborhoods, and city. I hope that within all our communities, we continue to be deliberate and unwavering in providing as many STEM summer learning experiences for children that their brains can hold.

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 skills are in demand

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.

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Source: http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/#tx-Texas-Overview

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).

NCLB Ten Un-Intended Years

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the highly publicized education reform effort championed by the George Bush administration, has not been synonymous with school improvement.  The involvement of the federal government in education at the state and local levels has not translated to improved student and teacher performance, rather NCLB put into place rigid guidelines that were not equitably funded across all schools.

While teacher’s work toward meeting unrealistic federally mandated school performance ratings, creativity and innovation have continued to leave the classroom.  Federal test mandates are so onerous in their implementation at the school level that the focus has shifted from education innovation to test prep for an exam that no college or university recognize as part of the admissions requirement.  The inability of the federal government to manage K-12 education is further proven in the tens of thousands of “failing” public schools, labeled as such because they are not measuring up with standardized test scores; this problem is particularly high in predominantly minority serving schools.

Over the last decade, each state as mandated by the federal government has held schools accountable to assessments that were never required to align with or link to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); the NAEP exam is the standard most often referred to when comparing how we fare academically as a nation.  Furthermore, though certain interpretation of statistical performance data suggest that our students are performing well; however, the drop-out rate continues to rise, direct admissions into a four year college/university is on the decline, and minority students continue to perform at levels below their White and Asian counterparts.

What we need is an accountability system that is connected to measures that indicate college readiness, such as the SAT/ACT.  Many of the standardized tests put into place as a result of NCLB have only been sufficient for meeting minimal high school graduation standards, but not college or STEM workforce ready standards for many students graduating high school.  This has resulted in schools graduating an increasing number of students lacking basic analytical and problem-solving skills.

What all this has taught us is that for federal education policies to be successful, it must be supported by research led by essential questions aimed at determining how to drive student achievement and teacher performance.  Policies that are implemented then have to be accompanied with the proper framework and financial resources required to deliver effective programming and desired outcomes.  This represents the type of education reform schools, across the country, can rally behind, as it would be aligned with the specific needs of the school community, as opposed to forcing a one-size-fits-all approach to getting all students college and career ready upon graduation from high school.   Without taking these critical measures, the federal government might one day face the realization that it is too far removed from where the work is getting done at the school level, and that implementing such sweeping mandates is a task much too difficult to manage from the top down.

CEA Welcomes CSTEM as New Academic Partner and Affiliate Member

 


For Immediate Release *** October 20, 2011

Contact: Craig Koshkin, (713) 337-8820, ckoshkin@consumerenergyalliance.org

CEA Welcomes CSTEM as New Academic Partner and Affiliate Member

Culminates Year-Long Collaboration in Developing & Launching

First Ever Energy Day Festival

HOUSTONConsumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is pleased to welcome CSTEM as its newest affiliate member.

Since 2002, CSTEM has operated as a non-profit organization providing services to teachers and students in areas of communication, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (CSTEM).  Through action research, CSTEM has developed a program that support and service Pre K-12 pipeline teams, enriching the teaching and learning process for both teachers and students around the world. Students find success with STEM, develop leadership skills, learn how to work successfully on a team, explore and discover career opportunities in STEM, and experience learning outside of their school and home community.

“CSTEM is so pleased to work with CEA to further educational and workforce opportunities for young people,” said CSTEM founder and CEO, Dr. Reagan Flowers. “The annual international CSTEM Challenge, and CEA’s Energy Day are just two examples of effective collaborative partnerships of two organizations working together to deliver positive messages about technology, science and education to students. CEA’s mission of expanding the dialogue around our nation needs for every form of energy to meet the demands of the future, affords students everywhere so many exciting opportunities to learn and experience energy in all its forms. CSTEM is committed to the continued development of our programs to engage students in STEM and creating opportunities that build better futures. By joining CEA, CSTEM hopes to be able to reach even more students in an attempt to increase the interest rate amongst students in STEM related fields. Together CSTEM and CEA can bolster educational opportunities for America’s youth.”

“Consumer Energy Alliance has been very proud to partner with CSTEM over much of 2011 to help make Houston’s Energy Day a reality and amplify all of CSTEM good work bringing science and energy-related education to students throughout Texas,” said CEA president David Holt. “Educating young people on the role energy plays in their daily lives is a fundamental function for CEA. CEA is proud of our collaboration with CSTEM and looks forward to doing even more together to provide students with credible energy information and activities that show students how STEM fields can become rewarding careers.”

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Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, comprised of more than 160 affiliate members, including energy consumers and producers, and tens of thousands of consumer advocates, that supports the thoughtful utilization of energy resources to help ensure improved domestic and global energy security, stable prices for consumers and balanced energy policy for America.

 

 

Early STEM Program Still Going Strong

Originally article by Jason Koebler posted in www.usnews.com

Early STEM Program Still Going Strong

 

With the onset of the great recession and a skyrocketing unemployment rate, improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) achievement has everyone’s attention. But it’s not a new problem, according to Reagan Flowers, the founder of one of the country’s first STEM programs.

For nearly 10 years, her organization, C-STEM (the C stands for communication) has been helping engage at-risk students in math, science, and English—long before many corporations began donating money to organizations like hers.

“Being an early innovator, a front-runner—we haven’t benefited so much in terms of the funding,” Flowers says. “When I started there was no research, I couldn’t find anything to back up my thinking. I almost doubted it in a sense.”

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