STEM and Inspiration
RE: H.R. 4515. To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to eligible local educational agencies to encourage female students to pursue studies and careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
Dear Representative Kuster:
As a middle school mathematics teacher as well as a doctoral student at the University of New England, I am writing to gain further insight into Getting into Researching, Learning & Studying of STEM Act of 2014 or the Girls-STEM ACT of 2014 (Bill H.R. 4515).
The goal of supporting girls in STEM is one which is dear to my heart. The intent to encourage the ongoing interest of female students in careers requiring skills in STEM and to prepare female students to pursue industry-recognized credentials needed to pursue a career in the STEM related fields is one which I hope to see our nation support whole-heartedly. I can see myself taking full advantage of said grants so as to serve underrepresented or low-income students, and to establish or implement programs to ultimately support girls in the area of STEM.
Reviewing H.R. 4515 initially, I supported it 100%. The intent of supporting girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is one which is dear to my heart. However, after viewing Public Policy and the Power of Networks (Thersaorg, 2010), I began to look at the details of this bill differently; through the lenses of value, facts and myths.
The potential awarding of grants via H.R. 4515 is based on the assumption that the suggested actions will encourage the ongoing interest of female students in STEM careers and prepare female students to pursue credentials needed for a STEM career. The actions suggested are mythical in the sense that there is no support that they will indeed have a direct impact on the intended of encouragement and preparation.
H.R. 4515 fails to define the current levels of interest of female students in STEM careers and also fails to discuss the current levels at which females pursue STEM careers. Women have made great strides in the STEM fields since the passing of Title IX of 1972. According to Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) from the Executive Office the President (2012), women currently earn 41% of PhDs in STEM fields. Women have made huge gains in life sciences and social sciences with approximately 49% of the workforce in life and biological sciences being female according to the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE). There has even been a report of a 50% increase in these fields over the past two decades by the NCWGE (2012). Where does the current problem lie?
Women, however, remain under represented in the fields of computer science and engineering. Despite being nearly equal in high school engineering classes, women represent 18% of engineering undergraduate degrees and about 11% of the engineering workforce (NCWGE, 2012). What additional verifiable information can be used to support the actions noted within this bill?
Considering this limited data, are the suggested actions of H.R. 4515 diagnostic in nature? How might the implementation of fewer clarified actions have a direct and/or greater impact on girls and STEM? Ideally it would be supportive in nature to see additional facts that support the causal claims intertwined within this bill to have a greater impact on girls and STEM. As a teacher, I can make speculations but I would like to see data which defines the specific needs so as to better determine if H.R. 45415 is aimed at meeting these needs.
H.R. 4515 defines the intended value it would like to invoke on the education and future of girls in our nation but is lacking in quantitative measures. Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education (2012) states that “federal science agencies, which are responsible for ensuring that academic institutions to which they offer grants comply with Title IX, have an uneven track record in monitoring compliance. How will the implementation of this bill be different? As it is written its intent is to support local agencies but who and how will these local agencies be monitored? I would be interested to learn about the quantitative measures which will be used to determine growth and/or success as well as the plans for monitoring proposed actions.
How would the passing of H.R. 4515 would impact the effect the taxpayer financially? This is an important factor to consider with all policy considerations.
The Girls-STEM Act of 2014 lends itself towards positive improvements for girls in the area of STEM. However, I am concerned that the actions proposed are not backed by facts and/or data. More important is the fact that there are no measurable outcomes proposed and the intended actions are diagnostic in nature. Bardach (2011) addresses in A practical guide for policy analysis: The eight fold path to more effective problem solving as reasons for being skeptical in examining problems.
As a strong advocate of women in STEM, I see the positive goals and intentions of H.R. 4515. To support this bill, I would need to know about the quantitative measures that would be used to determine success, growth and/or progress of awarded grants. Additionally, data which support the intended actions would prove to be beneficial as well as how a clear definition as to how the awardees may be determined. Such provisions would move the mythical aspects of this bill to facts and value which support the intended expenditures.
Thank you for your time and interest. I look forward to hearing back from you so I can learn more about the Girls-STEM Act of 2014 and advocate for increased support.
At the time I had an opinion, but now I feel as if girls and STEM has become a part of me. I continue to work and advocate for the future of our young women in these fields. This is not to say that I have pushed aside the relationship of boys in STEM but I feel as if the girls need more attention in the situation until there is some level of equality for all. All should have a fair chance.
I have worked at various angles to bring about specific opportunities to inspire our future female leaders. I have specifically enjoyed connecting groups of middle school girls with the NH High Tech Council and Tech Women | Tech Girls.
We have had the chance to hear from inspirational female leaders who have reached beyond the glass ceiling to achieve their goals as well as meet with other leaders in the STEM fields at the Ambassador Week hosted by Nashua North High School.
We have even attended a Town Hall Forum with Candidates for U.S. Senate and NH Governor. Our middle school girls have been nothing but inspired by these opportunities and events.
My next phase reaches beyond girls and STEM. After learning of the STEM Docent opportunity offered through the UNH Extension, I felt I could reach out to no only girls in my classroom, but also to boys and girls in community...even the state. I have taken to heart what "Bill Gates, Neil de Grasse Tyson and Jane Goodall have all had at least on their careers".....Inspiration.
What have you taken on to Inspire our youth?