On February 12, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund released “Advancing Equity through More and Better STEM Learning,” a report that examines where and how the nation is losing so many children along the K-16 STEM pipeline and identifies ways to accelerate progress in closing both opportunity and achievement gaps that persist.
At a time when only 2.2 percent of Latinos and 2.7 percent of African Americans have earned a degree in the natural sciences of engineering by the age of 24, the report addresses STEM equity as a critical civil rights concern. More and more of the jobs being created today require a STEM background, but a scarcity of AP classes, qualified teachers, funding, and resources in underserved schools have effectively locked students out of opportunities in crucial, well-paying fields like computer science, engineering, and defense.
“Advancing Equity through More and Better STEM Learning” cites unequal access to STEM education as a problem for the future of our country and its economy. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that 69 percent of STEM positions will require a bachelor’s or master’s degree by the end of the decade, but the United States is far off track from filling those jobs. A 2012 report from The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology warned that the 300,000 or so college students graduating each year with bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in STEM fields is one million off the mark.
The report also examines existing programs that address the gap in STEM education, and provides specific recommendations for local and national policymakers on how to help close this gap.
“Equal access to STEM education is crucial to the civil rights community, to the future of our country and economy, and to the lives of millions of minority and women students,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of both The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund. “We must – all of us – examine what systemic changes are necessary to ensuring that STEM learning is inclusive, engaging, and equally accessible, so that all of our children have the same opportunities to adequately prepare for college and for careers that will allow them to support themselves and their families.”