Monday, April 3, 2017

Examining the STEM Emperor's New Clothes

There is currently an emphasis on STEM education k-12. That is Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Mathematics.  It is known from NAEP 2015 4th and 8th grade results that the math results are declining and especially so for low achieving students. My initial thought when hearing about STEM was great but what I see in many places is not great.

Mathematics instruction should be focused on:
#1 Procedural Fluency
#2 Problem Solving
#3 Conceptual Understanding

A major failing of THE NEW MATH in the 1960s was a big emphasis on conceptual understanding but little else.  The NCTM Standards of 1989 also failed in emphasizing procedural fluency.  Common Core's content standards are an attempt to regain an emphasis on procedural fluency but the implementation is not going well as there is an over emphasis on the Standards for Mathematical Practice and Conceptual Understanding.

Meanwhile back to my STEM analysis.  Even in the rural outback of the Great Basin in Ely, NV STEM education has run a muck.  From the March 31, 2017 Ely Times:

What is STEM and How is it Implemented at White Pine High School

Giving students the skills they need for life after high school

The STEM best practices are research-based and have proved to be effective for students to acquire the skills needed for the 21st century. The best practices that are currently being used at WPHS include inquiry based learning, student-centered learning climates, authentic assessment, addressing problems with real world applications, and actively engaging students in their learning.  The more these best practices are used in our classrooms, the better prepared students will be for the workplace when they graduate.
Please show us the research...  do these pushed practices increase student learning?
It is my observation that in the attempt to increase graduation rates, the competence required to advance in school has been reduced.  In many schools the math classes are far from rigorous and active engagement is attainable while measures of academic competence are avoided.  {{12th grade 2015  NAEP only 25% of students are proficient or better.}}
So what do we know from NAEP 2015 about grade 12 results?  

In comparison to 2013, the national average mathematics score in 2015 for twelfth-grade students was lower and the average reading score was not significantly different. However reading 2015 was way lower than in 1992 dropping significantly from 292 to 287.

The big drop in 2015 grade 12 math took place at the "Below Basic" level, where the percent of students scoring at this lowest level increased from 35% to 38% of the student population.

Here are the 2013 to 2015 increases in percent of population scoring at "Below Basic" for various ethnic groups.
+2 White 25 to 27
+2 Black 62 to 64
+3 Hispanic 50 to 53
+4 Asian 17 to 21
+8 American Indian 46 to 54
Blacks and American Indians  scoring at the advanced level rounds to 0% in both 2013 and 2015

Here are the 2013 to 2015 increases in percent of population scoring at "Below Basic" by school location.
+2 City 41 to 43
+4 Suburban 31 to 35
+2 Town 37 to 39
+4 Rural 34 to 38

Here are the 2013 to 2015 increases in percent of population scoring at "Below Basic" by region of the USA.

+1 East 32 to 33
+1 Mid-West 31 to 32
+5 South 37 to 42
+3 West 39 to 42

+4 Public School 36 to 40
Catholic School in 2015  ...  16%

Here are the 2013 to 2015 increases in percent of student population scoring at "Below Basic" by parental level of education

+2 not HS Grad 55 to 59
+3 HS Graduate 51 to 54
+4 Some Post HS Education 35 to 39
+2 College Graduate 23 to 25

1 comment:

rick nelson said...

You may be interested in the paper on student computation skills and readiness for STEM majors posted on the physics bulletin board at