US Schools Becoming STEM Deserts

April 25, 2018

stemdeserts

Terms I’ve learned in last 24 hours.

Incel  – Incels are misogynists who are deeply suspicious and disparaging of women, whom they blame for denying them their right to sexual intercourse.

Now, STEM Desert.

US Dept. of Education:

The data show that 86 percent of high schools offered Algebra I, 84 percent offered Geometry, and 80 percent offered Algebra II. Advanced mathematics and Calculus were offered at fewer schools: 65 percent and 50 percent, respectively. For science courses, 86 percent of the nation’s high schools offered Biology and 73 percent offered Chemistry. However, just 60 percent of high schools offered Physics courses.

..approximately 5,000 high schools with high black and Latino enrollment (i.e. schools with more than 75 percent black and Latino student enrollment) offered mathematics and science courses at a lower rate than the overall population of all high schools.8 This difference is greatest with respect to advanced mathematics, Calculus, and Physics.

 

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14 Responses to “US Schools Becoming STEM Deserts”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    FWIW, I went to a high school with no calculus. My calc TA in college said that he preferred that, because people who took high school calculus usually didn’t cover enough to make a difference.

    In my case I had to start working from day one, and after about 5 weeks we passed what people had learned in HS calculus. Paradoxically, those HScalc students had trouble changing gears to keep up and start paying attention to lessons after they’d already established routines for the semester.

    Just sayin’.

    • Robert Huie Says:

      My High School calculus course taught me the applications of calculus. In college, I primarily learned theorems. Without that high school course, I might not have really appreciated what calculus does for understanding real problems.

    • L RACINE Says:

      I call bullshit!!

      A solid Cal 1 class taught by a good teacher is an asset when entering college. I don’t know where or when you went to high school but I was so very greatful to my high school teachers when I started college for the solid math and science foundation that they provided me… I am a Mech Engineer, my high school teachers were Jesuits, the curriculum taught by the Jesuits was rigorous to say the least!!!

      • ted knopper Says:

        You say you were taught by Jesuits. That is the key taught and rigorous are not PC correct in most of the public schools, It is dumb down the tests and over looked the trouble makers unless they shoot someone.

  2. L RACINE Says:

    This data begs the question WHY?

  3. ted knopper Says:

    I learned calculus in junior college. What I did have in high school was an actual course in how to make things from metal and a chemistry course where we made things in test tubes including some gun powder when the teacher was not looking.

    My sons high school did not have calculus either, it did not have a real chemistry lab either, it did not have a real biology lab either, no microscopes, no lab supplies to use them, the metals shop teacher was always scrambling for money as the course was considered beneath the school. What the school did have is a fancy arts theatre for the thousand dance and music students it turned out every year, all of whom did not get jobs in those professions. The school was into Stem, made a big fuss over that even if it taught the students nothing outside of reading a textbook. Go on a field trip to see science in action, forget that a bus cost money, a textbook supplied by the state cost zero.

    What is missing is the high schools and many colleges are run by people who have zero interest in actual science since they all came from the liberal arts which teach basically nothing except how to write long term papers saying nothing. They are into the meaning of meaning and could care less about the actual science of climate to name only one subject.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “What is missing is the high schools and many colleges are run by people who have zero interest in actual science since they all came from the liberal arts which teach basically nothing except how to write long term papers saying nothing”.

      Teddy is an expert on high school education too? Just because he attended one? A veritable DaVinci he is!

      I “ran” a high school, and let me assure Teddy that we followed a curriculum that met state guidelines, which mandated that a certain number of math, science, English, social studies, PE, and elective courses be taught regardless of whether we administrators had any “pet” subjects. Since I was a former science teacher, I DID have special interest in the science classes, and that’s why I took on the science department as my supervision area, but ALL subjects received equal weight.

      • ted knopper Says:

        The curriculum at the high school does meet state guidelines, that does not mean it actually taught any science outside of a book. All those classes you mention are taught, all from books, in the science class it is all books, no actual hands on is required or taught. Needless to say, a whole lot of students are asleep in those classes just like they were in yours. Tell me I am wrong, your science classes had no field trips or at most one, they had no hands on chemistry, they had no microscopes for hands on biology, you gave a lot of tests based on check the box rather than here is a sample, find out what it is. As to electronics, a bit from books, zero actual work building some electronic gizmo. Maybe if they were lucky assembling a robot from pre made parts. That is the usual science in most schools in American. Incidentally in history the students got a PC version of history which had very little content on what actually happened and why, mostly a listing of events so even those courses suffered with again most students sleeping in class. For example, remember the Spanish American war? The textbook spent about two paragraphs on that and never mentioned the part the owner of the Hearst papers had in sending the nation to war, the negro troops who went to battle with Teddy Roosevelt or what the american army did in the Philippines to hold onto the place against the wishes of the people who lived there. My son was an honors student in the high school so he took all those classes designed to send people off to liberal colleges.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          I wondered what kind of schools Knopthead and his son attended after seeing his earlier comment. Strange places.

          “What I did have in high school was an actual course in how to make things from metal and a chemistry course where we made things in test tubes including some gun powder when the teacher was not looking.”

          “My sons high school did not have a real chemistry lab either, it did not have a real biology lab either, no microscopes, no lab supplies to use them. What the school did have is a fancy arts theatre for the thousand dance and music students it turned out every year, all of whom did not get jobs in those professions”.

          The usual “make things” course begins not with metal but with wood, a much cheaper and easier material to work with that requires fewer and simpler tools. I don’t know what “real” biology and chemistry labs look like in your mind, but I CANNOT believe any school district that can afford “fancy art theaters” would not have them or that ANY normal high school in the USA would turn out “thousands” of dance and music students every year. As far as making gunpowder is concerned, it is not normally “made” in test tubes or even at school—-kids do it at home and at most might steal some of the ingredients at school. Methinks Knopthead just likes to hear himself spout bullshit.

          Like this ignorant crap:

          “All those classes you mention are taught, all from books, in the science class it is all books, no actual hands on is required or taught. Needless to say, a whole lot of students are asleep in those classes just like they were in yours. Tell me I am wrong, your science classes had no field trips or at most one, they had no hands on chemistry, they had no microscopes for hands on biology”.

          Knopthead says “tell me I’m wrong”? And insults me by saying my students were asleep in my classes? The physics classes I taught met 7 times a week so that we could have TWO two-period labs per week, and one of the most tiresome parts of the job was setting up and breaking down all the lab equipment needed for the various HANDS-ON experiments the kids did. In biology, we typically had one microscope for every two students, not because we couldn’t afford more, but because “two heads were better than one”, as is typical of all sciences—-ever hear of “lab partners”?—-we even worked in teams in college to save time and reinforce each other’s learning. We took the kids on some field trips, but minimized them because they were expensive and caused the kids to miss their other classes. One place I taught had a 40 acre “nature preserve” on a hill right outside my classroom windows—-we DID go out there and do hands on—-the kids loved to find or catch things they could feed to the animals—-feeding frogs to snakes or little frogs to big bullfrogs were their favorites. They especially loved watching the large mouth black bass and eastern chain pickerel I had in tanks chase the little minnows we fed them.

          Enough—-anyone who says “That is the usual science in most schools in American (sic)” is simply too ignorant to waste more time on. His commentary on what a history book said about the Spanish-American War just proves that.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    STEM Desert—-another buzzword thrown into the maelstrom to confuse everyone. Whatever gets attention is good, I guess. especially in the modern world of “screamers”.

    Actually, today’s numbers are pretty good, and have improved greatly since I began teaching science in the early 1960’s. The last year I taught physics in 1964-65 I had two classes with a total enrollment of ~55, and that included just 3 females and NO blacks—-in a school that was ~50% female and ~25% black.

    I have no idea why schools don’t show higher percentages for the sciences in Figure 4, but it may be that many very small schools have only one science teacher—-who can maybe teach either physics/chem or bio/chem and therefore meet the two science course requirement in most states—-thereby cutting the top “offered” percentage down some. If you go to school there, you have only two sciences to pick from.

    Looking at other tables is actually heartening. ~9 million kids taking science out of ~17 million is not bad (remember that each grade level is ~4.2 million

    Figure 5: Number of students enrolled in high school mathematics and science courses

    Total High School Enrollment 16,700,000
    Biology 4,469,000
    Chemistry 2,915,000
    Physics 1,597,000

    There is almost almost no sex discrepancy:

    FIGURE 6: Percentage distribution of students enrolled in high school mathematics and science courses, by sex

    (M-F)
    Total High School Enrollment 51% 49%
    Biology 50% 50%
    Chemistry 48% 52%
    Physics 54% 46%

    FIGURE 7: Percentage distribution of students enrolled in high school mathematics
    and science courses by race shows a not hugely statistically significant drop off by race. As with almost every measure in this country, poor kids and kids of color are the “tail end charlies” when it comes to resources—I’ve been retired for 25 years, and these race figures are much improved over what I recall also.

    • ted knopper Says:

      I am glad you like the percentages. What I am objecting to is labeling a book a science course or a book a math course. All the book does is tell the student to read the book, memorize at least part of it to pass another boring class. I have a book on my library shelf called “Gauge Theory of Weak Interactions” 2nd edition by Greiner Muller. To me it is an interesting informative book , to most people it would not be. A math tech or a science tech is simply a mass of words to most people, it does not engage them, teachers and hands on does that. If you were able to do that than I salute you as a treasure for our republic. If we disagree on climate, that is how science works, one presents their idea, the data and the debate in on. In the school it is different. How do you motivate the students to move on into science as a profession, to use science when asked to do something or not do something, is the real thing which is important, not 50 percent females in the class if none of them remember ten years down the road how to analyse a statistic thrown at them by some politician or would be politician like say Trump.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I will repeat—-“Teddy is an expert on high school education too? Just because he attended one?”

        And he probably didn’t take many (if any) reading comprehension or English composition courses, or we wouldn’t be having such trouble communicating with him—–surprising, because all those courses require is paper, pencil, and some reading material that doesn’t have to be more than old magazines or newspapers.

        Can we assume that Knothead’s math and science “techs” are really “texts”? And he says that a “science tech” would not engage people, yet he talks about a book on freaking quantum mechanics as being “interesting and informative”? I loved science, and taught physics, but what drove me to study biology in my graduate work and switch to teaching it was the “visibility” of biology as apposed to invisible and abstract little sub-atomic thingies zooming around.

        We don’t disagree on climate, Knothead, we disagree on science—–I accept it, you don’t—-there is no “debate”.


  5. I must admit that I am having trouble understanding what these statistics really mean. I don’t necessarily accept the interpretation at face value. Does a school that has a class called ‘physical science’ count as a school without physics? And how in the world would you have a high school in this country that does not have a biology class? Even in a school that is geared to teaching the arts, there must be some equivalent. But, perhaps not. This is not a comforting article by any stretch. The incoherence and apparent hyperbole of some of the commentary is also not comforting. Worse yet, the commentary may be correct! Alas.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      As I said in one of my comments, I too don’t get the stats offered in Figure 4.
      As I also said, the only explanation I can see is that some very small schools have only one science teacher—-who can maybe teach either physics/chem or bio/chem and therefore meet the two science course requirement in most states—-thereby cutting the top “offered” percentage down some. If you go to school there, you have only two sciences to pick from.

      General Science, and Physical Science (watered down chem/physics combo) are courses that are taught in some states, usually at the 9th. grade level. If you had a very small school with only one science teacher that was certified in physics or chemistry but not in biology, a student could meet the two science graduation requirement with physical science and one of the others. A biology teacher likely might have a minor in a physical science or could learn enough to teach the general science. This small school would likely not have many math offerings either.

      As far as “how in the world would you have a high school in this country that does not have a biology class?”, the answer seems to be that we don’t. The numbers in Figure 5 indicate that more than 1/4 of all students are taking biology, which means that just about everyone does it during their four HS years, and a number also take advanced bio courses.

      As far as any of the “commentary” here being true, the only “commentary” is from Knopper, and you may rest assured that it is far from correct.


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