Number of minorities, women taking CS is skyrocketing thanks to STEM collaborations
- Following implementation of a new type of computer science option last fall — AP Computer Science Principles, which puts real-world perspectives on coding — data from 2016 to 2017 shows the number of minorities taking a computer science exam in some form nearly tripled to 22,199, up from 8,283, while the number of girls taking it rose from 12,642 to 29,708.
- AP CSP was born out of a collaboration between the National Science Foundation, College Board and Code.org, along with other authorized providers, who are rolling out the course and training teachers to facilitate it, reports NPR — and over half of the schools teaching the course are using curriculum from Code.org, which trained 500 teachers last year.
- Though there has been progress, NPR notes that only one in five taking the AP Computer Science exam were minorities, while only one in four were women — but the results show collaboration can have positive outcomes, a reality that should be top of mind for educators across the K-12 and higher education spectrum trying to build the school-to-workforce STEM pipeline.
Both underrepresented minorities and women are increasingly breaking the barriers of entry into STEM-related fields, but significant challenges remain that require more attention from all stakeholders in education. For instance, panelists at a June 22 event hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that barriers in the pipeline begin all the way down at the K-12 level but extend on through higher ed and into the workforce.
Students who live in less affluent areas may not have access to schools that offer quality science education curriculum, a situation that may prevent their ability to go on to specialized engineering schools in higher education where they could gain the skills needed to take on jobs in fields like aerospace.
The reality is getting more of a spotlight from employers, as well. Lockheed Martin, for example, recently conducted a survey to measure the state of STEM education in K-12 schools and found that 25% of educators said their current school curriculum was not sufficiently preparing students for a STEM career. Another 31% of educators cited budgeting and lack of resources as issues preventing adequate preparation of students for STEM careers.
Computer science is just one example of where significant gender and racial gaps persist — but also one where collaboration among different leaders from education, nonprofits and other organizations has resulted in progress. Efforts between course providers and teaching groups like Code.org and The College Board show how working together on the pipeline is the best option for continued change. Beyond that, schools can turn to agencies like NASA, which often partners with school districts or local governments to institute science ed programs.
Moreover, universities can step in to offer more learning opportunities. An example of this is the Verizon Minority Male Makers program, which began at historically black universities and colleges like Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Jackson State University and Kentucky State University but now consists of 11 partners. This program partners schools with colleges and universities to offer students intensive summer programs. More options like this can fill gaps for schools that may not have enough funding to get students expensive training or hire teachers with a lot of experience.
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