Living in the Bay Area, we see firsthand how important STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is. It’s the key to careers in some of the nation’s most rapidly growing and highest paying fields.
But not all students are getting equal access to STEM education. During the 2015-2016 school year, low-income students and students of color were less likely to have opportunities to take advanced math and science classes. A study from the U.S. Department of Education showed that only 55 percent of high schools with high Black and Latino enrollment — compared to 65 percent of all high schools — offered advanced mathematics. For calculus, only 38 percent of high schools with high Black and Latino student enrollment offered advanced math, compared to 50 percent of all schools.
Without access to these courses, low-income students are held back from fulfilling their potential in STEM careers. A 2017 study found that children who grow up in areas with more inventors – and are thereby more exposed to innovation while growing up – are much more likely to become inventors themselves. There are many “lost Einsteins,” the study found, or people who never pursue a career in STEM innovation for lack of exposure, even though they would be successful if they did.
Some schools in the Bay Area are working to change this. Promise Academy, a new charter school opening in fall 2019 in San Jose and serving primarily low-income students, is one of many schools integrating STEM into the school model. Parent leaders with Innovate Public Schools advocated to bring this school to San Jose, and the Innovate Schools team helped Promise Academy’s founder develop the school model. Promise has a unique partnership with The Tech Museum, which will help enhance hands-on science, math and technology education for students. School models like that of Promise Academy can give students from all backgrounds an opportunity to find their passion and excel in STEM.