Monday, November 14, 2016

Race, gender gaps persist in computer science education

If you believe that all men are equal, these findings will be puzzling and disturbing.  If you know the facts about IQ, they are exactly as one would expect.  The ability subset that most predicts computer programming ability is Math ability.  Women are well behind on that and blacks  are rarely in the race.  And the findings below validate that.  Perhaps the most interesting finding below is that blacks are highly motivated.  Their lack of success is not for want of trying -- contrary to what some Leftist psychologists claim

New research from Google shows that black students are less likely to have computer science classes in school and are less likely to use computers at home even though they are 1.5 times more interested in studying computer science than their white peers.

The findings are part of a report released Tuesday by Google in partnership with Gallup that puts the spotlight on the racial and gender gap in K-12 computer science education. Google says its aim with the research, which surveyed thousands of students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents, is to increase the numbers of women, blacks and Latinos in computer science.

Computer science classes are popping up in K-12 schools around the country. The growing effort is coming from many quarters — the National Science Foundation, the College Board, Freada Kapor's SMASH Academy, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and major tech companies such as Google — all searching for the best way to put computers and computer know-how in the hands of kids from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. On Monday, a coalition of computer scientists released a framework for what K-12 students should know about computer science.

Parents and educators have joined the call for computer science classes, leading to a big jump in the number of schools reporting they offer at least one computer science class, to 40% up from 25% the year before, says Brandon Busteed, executive director of education and workforce development at Gallup.

But disparities persist in who has access to computer science education. Structural and social barriers still keep girls and underrepresented minorities from studying computer science, says Google's Sepehr Hejazi Moghadam.

"Ultimately we have got to steer away from computer science education being a privilege for some and move towards more broad access to quality computer science learning for all students," Moghadam said.

Silicon Valley's major tech companies are staffed mostly by white and Asian men. Google says it's hiring more black and Hispanic workers: 4% of hires in 2015 were black and 5% were Hispanic in 2015. But the increased hiring has not budged the overall percentage of underrepresented minorities in the Google workforce, with Hispanics making up 3% of the workforce and African Americans 2%. Seven out of 10 employees at Google are men.

That's a pressing problem for Google. Latino and African-American buying power is on the rise and Google has ambitions that now lap the globe. Having women and underrepresented minorities brainstorming and building, not just using, the products dreamed up by Google is quickly becoming a necessity.

"For us, a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures within the company and the industry overall lead to the creation of better products and services that meet the needs of all users," Moghadam said.


How classrooms are dealing with a Trump win

As crowds gathered in the streets of American cities to protest the election of Donald Trump, many elementary and high school students are confused at how Mr. Trump edged out an unexpected win and how a divided America can move forward.

“It’s definitely going to be a big change,” Jackson, a sixth grade student at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Berkeley, Calif., told NPR on Wednesday during a teacher-facilitated discussion. “Not necessarily a good change or a bad one. It’s just going to be big and different.”

The election of Trump – a presidential candidate celebrated by his followers for his hard-line stance on immigration, and disparaged by his opposition for, they say, being a racist, misogynist, and a bully – has posed a dilemma for teachers in the United States and Canada on whether they should lead conversations with their students about the president-elect. But many teachers have found an opportunity to teach their students about tolerance, self-expression, bullying, and democracy.

"I was surprised that students wanted to talk about it," Andrew Campbell, an elementary school teacher in Ontario, Canada, told The Globe and Mail newspaper. "I thought it wouldn’t have a lot of meaning to Grade 5 and 6 students, but I think they got caught up in the media storm and were reacting to that."

Throughout the presidential election, with its racially-charged rhetoric, sexual assault allegations, and undercurrent of violence, teachers have been challenged, wondering how to encourage civic engagement and learning while welcoming all views, as Gretel Kaufmann reported for The Christian Science Monitor when Jericho Elementary School in Centereach, N.Y. canceled a mock presidential election due to the negative vibes it was creating.

"Preparing citizens who are able to engage in civic discourse and have a certain level of political tolerance is an important part of the role of public schools in a democracy, and there are important opportunities for students to learn during critical moments, like now, in US history," Laura May, an associate professor of early childhood and elementary education at Georgia State University, tells the Monitor.

"But in times like now, in the midst of heated and extreme views that are often uncompromising, teachers and schools are vulnerable," she says.

To foster a good environment for conversation, Dr. May says, teachers must make children feel safe, comfortable, and respected among their peers to share personal and, perhaps, unpopular opinions. Once a teacher establishes this environment, students and teachers can develop ground rules for political discussions. For younger students, she adds, it may be best to discuss the election through familiar concepts such as kindness and fairness.

The day after the election, Berkeley Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area took a different approach. Teachers and administrators accompanied students as they gathered in the courtyard of Berkeley High School and marched to nearby University of California, Berkeley, to protest the election of Trump.

“It’s not the first time we’ve had a walkout,” said Berkeley Unified spokesman Charles Burress, referring to the city’s history of liberal politics. “We know what to expect, and we know what to do.”

The 1,500-odd students at Berkeley High were among thousands of young Americans in Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area that marched in opposition to Trump. In Los Angeles, about 300 predominantly Hispanic high school students walked out of classes and walked to the steps of City Hall. A giant Trump head was burned in effigy there, according to the Los Angeles Times, while students chanted in Spanish, “the people united will never be defeated.”

Many of those students were members of the “Dreamers” generation, children whose parents entered the United States with them illegally, school officials told Reuters. These students fear deportation under a Trump administration.

"A child should not live in fear that they will be deported," said Stephanie Hipolito, one of the student organizers of the walkout, and who said her parents are US citizens.

Teachers reported some of their students carried these same fears during the election, according to an online survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center. More than two-thirds of teachers surveyed said some of their students, particularly Mexican-American and Muslim students, are afraid they will be deported or disliked because of their heritage or religion.


Defining his education legacy, Obama touts climbing graduation rates

I wonder whom he thinks he is fooling?  It's the steady dumbing down of American education that accounts for higher pass rates

The nation's high school graduation rate reached its highest recorded peak in 2015 — although big disparities remain among African-American, Hispanic and low-income students, the White House said Monday.

President Obama highlighted the 83.2% graduation rate at a speech at a Washington, D.C. high school, an effort to define the eight years of the Obama presidency as a time of steady progress for student achievement across the county.

"We've made  a lot of progress," Obama said. "To be honest with you, we’ve still got more work to do."

Obama has touted the climbing graduation rate before, but usually as part of a longer list of domestic policy achievements. In his final State of the Union address in January, he told Congress that "together, we've increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering."

On Monday, Obama encouraged students at Washington's Benjamin Banneker Academic High School not just to graduate, but to apply to college — and to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

The high school wasn't chosen as the venue for Obama's speech just because of its proximity to the White House. The District of Columbia saw the biggest one-year increase in graduation rates in the country last year, from 61.4% to 68.5%. And at Banneker, the graduation rate last year was 100 percent.

"It's been a while since I did math, but 100% is good," Obama said. "You can't do better than that."

According to Department of Education data to be released Monday, the overall graduation rate rose 0.9 percentage points from the 2013-2014 school year to 2014-2015. Since 2011, when the department first started reporting graduation rates in a more reliable way, the increase is 4.2 points.

Minority groups still lagged behind their white peers, but saw bigger gains over the past year: the graduation rate for black students rose to 74.6% (a 2.1 point increase); for Hispanic students to 77.8% (1.5 points), Native Americans to 76.1% (1 point), and low-income students to 76.1% (1.5 points).

Students learning English as a second language saw the biggest gains of any subgroup, a 2.5 point increase to 65.1%.

State-by-state results also show graduations rates rising almost everywhere. The exceptions: Arizona and Wyoming, which were down a fraction of a point, and three states — Idaho, Kentucky and Oklahoma — that only recently began to release high school graduation rates in a way that could be compared to other states.


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