STEM Beats - infographic

This Day in STEM: The Chemistry of Fall Leaves

September 23, 2014

It's here!  The first day of autumn has arrived, bringing an end to the heat of summer and big changes to the climate and environment around us.  

Have you ever wondered what's happening inside leaves as they start changing colors?  Check out this awesome infographic from Compound Interest that shows how chemicals work at the molecular level to bring fall colors to the trees:

Click here to view the larger PDF version

As you can see, there's a lot of activity happening inside leaves as the temperature and sunlight change, including the production of carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins that cause the beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds of fall leaves!  

What's your favorite part about transitioning from summer to fall?  For us, it's this Google Doodle:

Tags: This Day in STEM, science, infographic

This Day in STEM -- August 4

August 4, 2014

Today marks the 180th birthday of John Venn, creator of one of our favorite ways to represent data: the Venn diagram!  From statistics to logic to computer science, John Venn developed a tool to organize information and examine relationships that we use in and out of STEM fields.

Google marked the occasion with one of its interactive Google Doodles.

In our modern infographic-loving world, it seems that John Venn's creation is still as popular as ever, even outside of academia.  In fact, here are some, er, non-traditional examples to help you celebrate Venn diagrams and their namesake today!

Tags: This Day in STEM, infographic

Gallup Poll Shows Majority of Superintendents See CCSS as Improvement on Education

July 2, 2014

In the recently released “Understanding Perspectives on American Public Education,” a majority of school district superintendents from across the country offered their opinions on a variety of hot topics in education today, including Common Core State Standards. (SPOILER ALERT: it turns out that a majority think CCSS are an improvement!)

The survey, part of a joint venture by Education Week and Gallup, is the first in a series of three that intend to track and understand the positions of U.S. superintendents on the issues facing the education system at-large as well as their own school districts.

The big news out of the report is that 66 percent of the 1,800 respondents agreed that the Common Core State Standards would improve the quality of education in their communities.  Likewise, 66 percent of superintendents said that the rigor of CCSS was “just about right,” compared with 14 percent that considered the standards too challenging for students and  5 percent who thought them not challenging enough.  

In terms of the implementation process (despite only 2 percent strongly agreeing that they’ve had adequate federal support), about half of the superintendents (55 percent) said that their districts have assessments in place to measure mastery of CCSS subject areas, and a combined 75 percent found those assessments to be somewhat to very effective at doing so.  

Infographic courtesy of Education WeekInfographic courtesy of Education Week

The data also shed an interesting light on topics like barriers to entry into higher education, technology in the classroom, evaluating teacher performance, and superintendent time management.  One of our favorite data points showed that about two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents said their districts have systems in place to focused on the development of talented students for careers in STEM fields.  We’re hoping that this number grows as this research moves forward, but it’s certainly a great start!

Researchers concluded that the subject of Common Core “seems to provoke relatively little controversy” among the superintendents that responded to the survey; a strong majority say the standards will improve education for the students in their communities and few are concerned that they present too large (or too small) of a challenge for students to take on.  

With this survey (and the follow-ups planned for later this year), the superintendents have offered their views on the big issues facing  their districts.  We hope that states will take note of and place value in the input of these school administrators at the front-lines of the Common Core discussion.  

Tags: Common Core, infographic, K-12, standards

Engineering Emergency!

February 18, 2014

This month, STEM enthusiasts across the country are celebrating National Engineers Week.  Here at CTEq, we’re excited to be part of the festivities (we’re hosting a STEM Salon tomorrow on Capitol Hill! Stay tuned for the video.) but even all of the E Week excitement can’t keep us from bringing you our brand new data release, Engineering Emergency: African Americans and Hispanics Lack Pathways to Engineering.

In this report, we address a growing concern about the barriers to lucrative engineering careers for students of color.  Pay for engineers is tens of thousands of dollars more than the average annual salary for those with a similar educational attainment and its unemployment rate is about half of the overall unemployment rate.  It’s alarming, then, to consider that minority students interested in engineering are facing roadblocks from the outset of their educational careers and can find themselves unprepared for the pursuit of these profitable, secure jobs.

In taking a closer look, we found that African American students in particular are held back by a lack of access to the building blocks of a successful engineering career.  For example, 35 percent of these students attend high schools that do not offer calculus instruction, and 20 percent lack regular access to high school physics courses.  Only three in ten African American students who have the potential to succeed in Advanced Placement math classes actually take those classes. Without the necessary foundation of a strong, well-rounded STEM education, African Americans will continue to lose ground on the engineering pathway.

Opportunity Lost

With increasing demand for engineers and the invaluable skills that engineering degrees and training afford them, addressing these barriers to entry is especially critical if the U.S. intends to maintain its position as a global innovation leader.  This untapped potential means that if African American and Hispanic students aren’t given the chance to succeed in engineering, we all stand to fail.

For more on this challenge, be sure to download the full Engineering Emergency infographic and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #EmergencE.  From mechanical to chemical and aeronautics to computing, engineers make our world go ‘round and we hope you will join us this week in celebrating them.  Happy Engineers Week from CTEq! 

Tags: engineering, Vital Signs, infographic, minorities

Science S.O.S.!

January 7, 2014

With the New Year now upon us, it’s the perfect time to look inward and identify ways to improve, strive, and broaden, even in STEM.  In this spirit, Change the Equation is challenging states to make (and keep) a resolution: enrich the school days of U.S. students by encouraging schools to spend more time on science in 2014 and beyond.

In our new Vital Signs data release, CTEq can gladly report that, overall, elementary schools increased the amount of time spent on science from 2.3 hours per week in 2008 to 2.6 hours per week in 2012.  However, when you consider the steady decline from three hours per week in 1994 and the fact that, currently, students are exposed to such a critical subject for only about a half hour per day, it's easy to see why we're sending out an S.O.S. for science.

Many states are dedicating more time for science education.  Schools in Texas, for example, spend 3.8 hours per week, up from 3.3 hours in only four years.  Unfortunately, though, we’ve seen other states’ science-committed classroom time plummet: New Hampshire, from 2.9 to 1.6 hours in less than 20 years; Colorado, from 2.9 to 1.8 hours; Nevada, from 2.8 to 1.7 hours. 

Science SOS gif

Perhaps the most telling (and concerning) evidence comes with the recent release of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) findings on science scores: in the last three years, the U.S. has fallen even further in the global rankings, from seventeenth to twenty-first place.  Beyond that, only half of states actually hold schools accountable for meeting science standards, which can vary greatly and often set a very low bar for proficiency.

Low stakes

The issue here is not only dedicating more time to science but using that time well and setting consistent benchmarks for achievement.  Some states are adopting Next Generation Science Standards, which allow teachers to cover fewer, more essential topics in greater depth while still building skills in vital areas like reading and math, subjects that have commonly pushed science out of the curriculum.  These standards can help schools provide substantive and sustained exposure to science so that we can build the foundation of STEM literacy beginning in elementary classrooms. 

Want to see where your state stands on science and whether you need to sound the S.O.S.?  Download the full Science S.O.S. infographic and check out the brand new Time for Science data in Vital Signs under “Challenging Content."  You can also see all the state numbers and more by following the #ScienceSOS hashtag on Twitter. And let’s all resolve to get our states to spend more time on science in 2014!

Science SOS infographic

Tags: science, Vital Signs, infographic, STEM & the states, Next Generation Science