STEMming Education Myths

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

When government agencies consider the need for education reform, they usually come up with the same solution for the woes of public schools: more money. Nevertheless, buried in their reports are nuggets of information that contradict that thesis.

For example, Julie Clark, program research director at the National Science Foundation, compiled a series of studies examining the achievement gap in the U.S. and in other countries. The study, titled “Closing the Achievement Gap from an International Perspective: Transforming STEM for Effective Education”, studied countries like Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa and Australia.

Clark’s own submission addressed American shortcomings in education, where only 24% of minorities make up the American workforce and 7% work in science and engineering fields. Considering that minorities are projected to make up 68% of the future American workforce by 2015, Clark pushed for educating minorities better and more effective measures  to close the achievement gap.

One of the most important concerns of minority students, alleged Clark, was their anxiousness about self-fulfilling stereotypes. She said that minority students “may also experience stereotype threat – the fear that they will be judged as having traits associated with negative appraisals and/or stereotypes of their racial/ethnic group, which produces test anxiety and hampers their test performance.” Building on that assumption, Clark said that minority students “stop trying in school because they do not want to be accused of “acting white” by their peers.”

But, Clark argues that minority students are discriminated against in education, that they “are taught differently – many Hispanic and black children get a lower-level, less rigorous curriculum; the least-qualified teachers are assigned to teach minority students; and less is expected of minority children, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” She felt the “unfortunate reality” is that “the burden of understaffed and underequipped schools usually falls on minority communities.”

Also, the study found that 96.6% of American eighth-grade students are taught by fully certified teachers, which was higher than the international average of 91%. Also, 42.4% of Americans students were taught by a teacher with a major in mathematics while the international average is 70%.

Of the foreign countries studied, we learned that in one of the countries, parents play a more active role in their children’s education and personally pay for the privilege. In South Korea, 2.5% of expenditures are provided by private households for tutoring and after-school programs for their children.