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STEM education is touted as all-important, but access isn’t always equal

STEM_minoritiesScience, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs are growing each day, expanding to reach students of all ages as they educate tomorrow’s leaders.

While education stakeholders and policymakers advocate for more access to these valuable STEM programs, and while programs are plentiful, access isn’t always equal.

Efforts are underway to ensure that women and minorities have equal access and opportunity when it comes to K-12 STEM education and program participation.

(Next page: Resources to engage women and minorities in STEM education)

According to National Science Foundation statistics found on the National Girls Collaborative Project site, “girls are taking many high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of physics and engineering, and are performing well overall. However, gaps in mathematics and science achievement persist for minority and low-income students.”

Here’s a sampling of available STEM resources for women and minorities. If you have a favorite STEM education resource, make sure to let us know in the comments section below.

1. My Brother’s Keeper
President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Through this initiative, the Administration is joining with cities and towns, businesses, and foundations who are taking important steps to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class.
2. Purdue University Minority Engineering Program
The Minority Engineering Program at Purdue University was initiated in 1974 to increase the pool of interested and qualified students from historically under-represented groups pursuing engineering degrees and to provide a foundational support system and programs that encourage students to find solutions to technical and social challenges.
(Editor’s note: This is just one example of a university effort to engage women and minorities in STEM. Universities across the nation offer similar efforts.)
3. Level Playing Field Institute
Level Playing Field Institute is committed to eliminating the barriers faced by underrepresented people of color in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and fostering their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation. To improve access, opportunity, and equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the Level Playing Field Institute operates two STEM-focused Education Programs, conducts Research on STEM Equity, and recently launched a Computer Science Initiative.
4. National Math and Science Initiative
The Program increases dramatically in the number of students taking and passing AP math, science and English exams, and expands access to traditionally under-represented students. NMSI’s College Readiness Program also dramatically increases college readiness. Students passing AP exams are three times more likely to earn a college degree than students who do not pass. African-American and Hispanic students who pass an AP exam are four times more likely to earn a college degree than those who do not pass. Furthermore, a 2010 study conducted by Dr. C. Kirabo Jackson found that NMSI students were 22 percent more likely to continue in college than students not enrolled in the program.
5. Girlstart
Through its comprehensive programming, Girlstart provides a year-round, intensive suite of STEM education programs for K-12 girls. Girlstart’s core programs foster STEM skills development, an understanding of the importance of STEM as a way to solve the world’s major problems, as well as an interest in STEM electives, majors, and careers.
6. National Girls Collaborative Project
The vision of the NGCP is to bring together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

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Laura Ascione

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