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What a college and career ready high school diploma means

The field of Human Centered Design & Engineering is growing, and more than 80% of the program’s graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation. But Stephanie White, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, says that even though the undergraduate program has been flooded with applications, a lot of the students who want to study engineering in her department can’t—they simply don’t have the prerequisites to qualify. “Many students find out their junior year of high school that they don’t have the prerequisites to study STEM in college—by then it’s too late to take the courses they need.”

Sadly, Stephanie’s experience isn’t unusual. Only 4 in 10 graduating seniors meet the basic admissions requirements to get into a public university in Washington. And nearly 60% of students who attend community or technical college must take remediation classes to get to those basic 4-year college admissions requirements. In other words, many students must pay tuition to learn what they should have been taught in public high school. Help us to change this for Washington students by signing a petition in support of a college and career ready diploma.

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New York Times: Online Mentors to Guide Women Into the Sciences

This article was originally featured in the New York Times on Sunday, September 16th.

Hundreds of prominent women working in science, technology, engineering and math will become online mentors for college students next month, part of a six-week program to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

“I think of this as a MOOC — a massive open online course — and a big mentor-fest,” said Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College and a sponsor of the project. “Getting more women into STEM is my passion in life, and every institution that’s set up mentorship programs for young women has been successful at increasing their numbers, so I think this can make a real difference.”

The program has no curriculum, no exam, no grades and no credit — just a goal of connecting young students with accomplished women working in STEM fields. Prominent universities — including the California Institute of Technology, Cornell, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley — have been quick to sign on, contributing mentors and publicizing the program to students.

“I thought this was a great idea as soon as I heard about it,” said Dennis Berkey, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Young women in STEM, more than young men, have a lot of questions about what kind of career they’ll have, whether the rewards are based on performance or the old boys’ network, whether it’ll let them make a positive impact on the world, and how it will relate to their aspirations for family.”

Read the full article here.

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The "vital signs" of WA's STEM education

Change the Equation has released a new study that shows the state of STEM education across the U.S. Vital Signs looks at the demand for and supply of STEM skills, what states expect of students, students’ access to learning opportunities and the resources schools and teachers have to do their work.

The report overview notes that while Washington’s students have made some progress in math over the past ten years, student access is limited when it comes to content challenging enough to prepare them for college and careers in the STEM field. According to the report, “Washington’s high school graduation requirements in math and science do not align with college entrance requirements, which may contribute to the high cost of math remediation for its underprepared college students.”

The study also shows that students in Washington spend significantly more time doing hands on projects than the national average, (89 vs. 74 percent) but spend less time talking about the “kinds of problems engineers solve” in the classroom (11 vs. 15 percent). Further, deep gaps exist between students of color and their white peers in science and math scores, as shown in the graph below:

While serious issues persist, the report does commend Washington’s commitment to adopting the Common Core standards and its return on investment when in comes to spending on STEM. In fact, Washington “gets a larger return on its investment in math and science education than most other states do. It spends $19,244 per proficient student in math and science, placing it in the top quintile for all states for the return on its investment.”

Explore the data for yourself here or download a summary version here (PDF).

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Six Washington teachers named state level finalist for national math and science award

Superintendent Randy Dorn announced this morning that six Washington elementary teachers have been selected as finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). PAEMST is the highest honor for K-12 science and math teachers and is awarded once a year to teachers from each state and U.S. jurisdictions and territories. To be considered for the award, teachers must first be nominated, complete an application and have that application be approved by state and national selection committees.

In a press release announcing the finalist, Dorn stated, “What is most impressive about this group of teachers is their incredible skill in reaching students with a wide variety of ability in math and science. In their classrooms students who have struggled seem to flourish, and accomplished students achieve even higher.”

The state-level finalists are:

  • Allison Greenberg, Hawthorne Elementary, Everett
  • Pam Nolan-Beasley, Waitsburg Elementary, Waitsburg
  • Debra Strong, Forest View Elementary, Everett
  • Deborah Halperin, Laurelhurst Elementary, Seattle
  • Kristina Peterson, Lakeside, Seattle
  • Nancy Pfaff, Horace Mann Elementary, Redmond

More information can be found here.

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West Seattle Herald: UW researchers, Highline schools aim to make science more engaging

This story originally appeared in the West Seattle Herald on August 30th, 2012.

Traditionally, many junior high and high school students have seen the prospect of going to science classes as a dim one: a gauntlet of numbers, formulas and memorization.

University of Washington professors and researchers Elham Kazemi and Jessica Thompson are continuing their work and teaming up with Cascade Middle School and Evergreen high schools teachers, administrators and students to buck that trend, thanks to a $450,000 grant from Washington STEM, a non-profit dedicated to “advancing innovation, equity, and excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in Washington state.”

Thompson said they are jumping in on “great things going on in these schools already … trying to capitalize on that and understand what is going on and help the work forward.”

Specifically, their work will include further development of four core science teaching principles that make learning more engaging (Thompson’s area of expertise), along with Kazemi’s focus on developing school-wide professional development through an instructional focus. In other words, how to make science and math fun while getting the kids ready to land good jobs and make an impact in world. They also hope the research will help define a way for administrators – from school to school and district to district – share their models of success.

Read the whole story here.

 

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Seattle ranks 9th in H-1B visa requests, 64th in training grant dollars

Reporting on the findings from the Brookings Institute, the Seattle Times notes that, because of companies like Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle is one of the top ten cities in the U.S. when it comes to requesting foreign workers, especially for jobs in the STEM field. However, when it comes to the accompanying grants that the area is supposed to receive to train and educate local workers, Seattle ranks 64th.

In the report titled The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, the Brookings Institute found that the cities with the most foreign worker requests received the lowest amount of training grants while the cities with the lowest amount of foreign worker requests received the highest amount of training grants. The Seattle Times writes, “Of 106 metro areas with a high demand for H-1Bs — at least 250 H-1B visa requests a year — 36 have received no training funds since 2001, the study found. The Seattle metro area received $2 million over the 10-year period.” The fees from the H-IB visa program ($1,500 to $5,500  per applicant) are supposed to go towards funding  grants from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

According to the report, Washington based Microsoft has topped the national list for the past two years when it comes H-IB visa request. For their part, Microsoft often says that the U.S. is not producing enough STEM graduates to fill the jobs needed.

As LEV has reported before, the state of STEM education in Washington could definitely use some improvements when it comes to achievement accessibility.

Read the Seattle Times story here. The Brookings Institute report can be found here.

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Do all of Washington's students have access to UW's Computer Science Program?

In a recent article, the New York Times touted the Computer Science program at the University of Washington as emerging as one of the best in the country, drawing students and graduates away from Silicon Valley and the east coast. Currently, the article states, 80 percent of the program’s students come from Washington state and the demand for students in the STEM field continues to grow. However, do all of Washington’s students have access to this buzz-worthy program?

Growing Achievement Gap
As we reported earlier in the post Digging in to the NAEP Data, the achievement gap between students of color (particularly Latino and African American students) and White students is profound. In Washington state, African American students performed at a proficiency rate of  15 percent and Latino students performed at 17 percent while White students performed at 43 percent. The gap between low-income students (21 percent proficiency rate) and non-low income students (45 percent proficiency rate) is just as stark. According to data from OSPI, the math passage rate for African American students has been steadily decreasing since  the 2005-2006 year. For the 2009-2010 school year, African American students had a proficiency rate of 19 percent on the Math High School Proficiency Exam. White students  had a proficiency rate of 47.4 percent on the Math High School Proficiency Exam for the same year. That is close to a twenty point gap.

Growing Cost of College
In an Op-ed for the Seattle Times, two members of the University of Washington’s Regent Board stated that they believe that Washington’s current education funding model is unsustainable, writing: “Twenty years ago, the state government paid 80 percent of the cost of a student’s education and a student paid 20 percent. Today, the state pays 30 percent of the cost, and the student pays 70 percent.” The 2012-2013 academic year marks the fourth year in a row where the University of Washington has to increase tuition. The University of Washington is not alone and many students are finding that they cannot pay.

Washington’s Major Disconnect
A recent piece in the Spokesman Review linked college drop-out rates to the inability to pay college costs and argues that if students were able to figure out the “pay-out” of certain degrees , the drop-out rate would decrease. In the article, they report that the most popular major in many of Washington’s private and public universities is Business, even though the most needed majors for jobs reside in STEM. Citing a Georgetown study, the article states that “there will be eight million jobs in the STEM fields by 2018. But data reveal a small minority of students graduating with degrees in those areas.”

The achievements of the computer science program at the University of Washington deserve to be applauded. However, looking at the data reveals that not all of Washington’s students have access to the world-class education like UW is providing. We can be doing a lot more to ensure that they do, including closing the achievement gap, making college affordable, and giving  college students enough information to decide what major works best for them.

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US News: Opportunities in Afterschool Programs Abound for STEM Education

Experts argue that if properly utilized and made more accessible, afterschool programs have the  potential to broaden the STEM reach.

Jodi Grant, the CEO of the Afterschool Alliance notes the sophistication of some of the programs. For example, “kids are designing paper airplanes, learning chemistry through cooking, [and] we have kids who are using computers to redesign their neighborhoods,” she says.

However, the funding for these programs is not always there. Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation, says “corporate America has been willing to invest in afterschool programs, but is often unsure if the monetary contributions they are making influence STEM education in the right way. There’s a tension in the corporate world between patience and urgency. Corporate America wants to enact change immediately, but education doesn’t work that way.”

According to the Afterschool Alliance, there are 8.4 million students participating in afterschool programs across the nation. However, the Alliance says that the parents of 18 million students would enroll their students if they could.

Read the full article here. Go here to find out more about U.S. News STEM Solutions 2012 — A Leadership Summit.

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New study touts the importance of "Spatial Knowlege" and math comprehension

The University of Chicago has released a study which found that children who understand how shapes fit together to create a recognizable image (spatial knowledge) tend to have an easier time when it comes to identifying numbers and solving math problems down the road.

The research team conducted two experiments. First, the researchers administered a test to a diverse group of first and second grade students to see how well they could identify numbers on a line with 0 at the beginning and 1,000 at the end. The researchers also tested the students on their spatial knowledge by asking them to choose the correct piece that would create a square. They found that students with the strongest spatial knowledge were also strong at identifying numbers on the number line. In the second experiment, researchers watched footage of students who had been filmed from ages five to eight having some basic interactions with their parents or caretakers. The students were tested on spatial knowledge at five and a half years old, number line knowledge at around six years old, and calculation skills at eight years old. The results of the second experiment were consistent with the first, meaning that children with better spatial skills did well when it came to the number line and calculation skills.

On the results of the study, Elizabeth Gunderson, lead author of the study and a University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar stated “Improving children’s spatial skills may have positive impacts on their future success in science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines, not only by improving spatial thinking but also by enhancing the numerical skills that are critical for achievement in all STEM fields.”

Read the full article here.

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