STEM education reform for black students and teachers

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Green Street Academy teacher Harry Preston in Baltimore and students compete in the 2021-22 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition.

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Alex Guererer, CEO, DonorsChoose

As a black man who grew up in the under-resourced Hartford Public Schools, I saw firsthand the challenges black students and educators face in STEM education.

While the effects of race surrounded myself at school age, I was very naive about it. Mathematics and The sciences, with their logical clarity, were my favorite subjects. I thought that by excelling in class, no one can hold race or origin against you.

But despite my love of STEM, and a Harvard physics degree, when I became a teacher I quickly realized that solving equations was only a small part of the battle.

No Black STEM teachers

The sad truth is that there is a severe shortage of Black STEM teachers. a donors The survey found that while 15% of public school students are black males, only 2% of teachers are black males. This disparity is unacceptable, and has consequences in the real world. In fact, research shows that black students who have at least one black teacher between grades three and five are 33% more likely to graduate.

What can we do to address this? One solution is to raise the bar for the black teacher experience and provide more support for black teachers and their classrooms. This is something DonorsChoose is committed to. Our core principle is that all children can learn and positively impact their communities. Through our platform, anyone can help classrooms in need, and we’re working to connect more donors and partners with Black teachers and schools.

Another solution is to enhance STEM education in ways that are relevant and meaningful to students’ lives. This is why I am excited Samsung’s solution for tomorrow program, a STEM contest where public school students submit ideas on how STEM can help change their communities. Last year’s national sustainability winner, Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, identified environmental racism as a problem in their city and worked to transform brown fields into green spaces like parks and community gardens. This project not only taught students about STEM, but also taught real-world applications of these topics and how they can create positive change.

Create black STEM role models

As a former teacher, I know that positive role models are a powerful influence on students. Students who see themselves represented in their teachers feel seen and validated for their identity. This is why we need more STEM teachers – not only to teach students STEM subjects but also to be role models and mentors, to help students believe in themselves and their abilities.

Wishful thinking in STEM education will not solve the challenges facing black students and educators. But by elevating the black teacher experience, promoting STEM education in relevant and meaningful ways, and providing more support for black teachers and classrooms, we can make progress toward a more equitable future.

Alex Guerre is the CEO of the company donorsA non-profit website that enables anyone to help classrooms in need. Former teacher, co-founder of EdTech LearnZillion, holds a Masters in Education and an MBA from Stanford University. Alex lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughters.

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