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Solving the Education Equation: A New Model for Improving STEM Workforce Outcomes Through Academic Equity

This report revises and reinvigorates previously developed goals from the 2011 National Research Council (NRC) report titled Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in STEM to expand the STEM workforce by targeting individuals who are least likely to pursue STEM careers.
Author(s): 
Claudia Morrell, MS, MA
Carolyn Parker, PhD
Editor: Nancy Tuvesson, MBA
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
National Association for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
Johns Hopkins University School of Education
Published: 
2015
Resource Type: 
Product
Number of Pages: 
17
Product Type: 
Abstract: 

This report discusses two gaps that challenge expansion of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) workforce:

  1. Academic achievement gaps (also referred to as equity gaps that are measured by recruitment, retention, performance, and completion) between White/Asian students and students of color that are evident in most rigorous STEM courses and programs.
  2. Low participation STEM courses and careers, particularly among females, people of color, and people with disabilities, potentially due to lack of interest, entrenched cultural attitudes, and beliefs about innate abilities.

To address these achievement and interest gaps, the report posits that culturally-based explicit and implicit biases that exist in education, particularly in STEM programs, must be addressed to create inclusive, culturally responsible, equitable learning environments for every student. The report makes several recommendations for policy and practice reform:

  1. Incorporate evaluation into regulation
  2. Provide proven professional development
  3. Measure progress with disaggregated data
  4. Conduct targeted research
  5. Report progress to Congress
  6. Build databases of quality research and practices
What the Experts Say: 

For adult educators who are interested in STEM, this resource will be worthwhile. Our changing workforce demographics highlight a growing concern about the nation’s ability to meet the workforce demands for a literate and skilled STEM workforce. The report discusses the need to rebalance the education equation to include equitable learning environments ensuring that teaching and learning are rich and relevant to students and connect meaningfully to STEM literacy and competency. The benefits of closing the achievement gap and addressing the interest gap are highlighted. Systemic changes that would improve educational policies and practices to create equitable learning environments are hoped for the future.

For this end, stakeholders worked together to re-vision the education equation to achieve equally high academic outcomes for all students, regardless of race, gender, language, family income, or physical ability, leading to high-skill, high-wage, high-demand careers. The commitment to the advancement of access, equity, and diversity in classrooms and workplaces is important for the success of our nation and its students. Recommendations for policy and practice reform are included.

This resource is a policy paper geared to K-12 education. However, the emphasis on STEM as a growing field and one that is economically secure is an important message for adult education. Adult basic education has not always been able to attract teachers who can promote STEM learning and preparation for further education and training in this content area. The paper also focuses on creating an equitable learning environment so learners can all feel that STEM is a possibility for them. In adult education, it is more likely that instructors need to address learner’s prior experiences with inequity and their resulting feelings and beliefs that they are less capable as math learners and have lower expectations of themselves. This resource is useful to start these discussions at the state and local levels.

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