Boston’s Science Crisis

In the world of education, STEM is the new black.
“STEM! STEM! STEM!”
“Let’s teach our kids more math and science!”
“STEM ed is the key to the economy and the jobs of the future!”
The problem is — we are doing a horrific job of preparing our children for these jobs of the future. HORRIFIC.
According to an Massachusetts Parents United report on the state of schools in East Boston and Dorchester, Boston Public Schools are in serious crisis when it comes to science education. And if what we’re seeing in these neighborhoods is any indication of what’s happening across the city — we’re in serious trouble.
The experts are right. STEM education — or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is key to preparing our children for post-secondary education and the jobs of the future. And without a strong, well-prepared workforce, the Massachusetts high-tech economy could be in serious trouble — which is why you see business groups across the state scrambling to provide support to school districts who are doing a less than admirable job on the whole when it comes to STEM ed.
Overall, Boston Public Schools average a dismal 18% on the 5th grade science proficiency. Let’s take a look at the schools in Dorchester schools:

Yes, that’s right. We have schools in Boston with ZERO PERCENT PROFICIENCY IN SCIENCE. ZERO.
African American students average 9% science proficiency in the Boston Public Schools.

Hispanic and Latino children? BPS Average: 10%

Economically disadvantaged kids? BPS Average: 11%

Now, a glance at the schools in East Boston:

Hispanic and Latino students:

Economically disadvantaged students:

So who exactly is going to be getting these jobs of the future? These high tech opportunities that are going to be the key to a bright and prosperous Boston that lifts our children out of the cycle of poverty we’ve been trying to escape for generations?
It’s not kids who can’t even rate at the PROFICIENT level in science.
And if you’re not proficient in science in the 5th grade — why would we think that these kids would be prepared to compete with kids from communities across the Commonwealth for seats at the amazing universities in Massachusetts or professional and technical training — which would give them the skills needed to get these JOBS OF THE FUTURE?
THEY WON’T BE.
For months I’ve been talking to community leaders, politicians and education experts across the City of Boston and I’ve literally seen people with their eyes bugging out of their heads when I present this data. They look shocked and stunned at first — and then, frankly, resigned. “Yeah, but science is tough,” is often the response.
The only people I talk to who aren’t surprised by this? PARENTS. Parents know and understand that their kids are not being taught science in any meaningful way and are puzzled as to why this is happening. During MPU meetings when we talk about the research we’ve done and what we’ve uncovered, there is anger, disappointment and frustration, but never surprise.
You can’t expect parents in Boston to believe that their children will be heirs to the “jobs of the future” being heralded by politicians when we can’t even manage to get them to PROFICIENT in science in 5th grade across BPS. Frankly, the education cake is already half-baked at that point and kids are waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind the ball if they’re doing this badly on the 5th grade science test.
Which brings me to our next data point of interest: We need to start taking a hard look at how our Latino community is performing across the board. 44% of the children attending Boston Public Schools are Latino. Put another way — THE MAJORITY OF CHILDREN IN BPS ARE LATINO.
If you’re a Latino mom in Dorchester, here’s the state of your neighborhood schools:

If you’re a Latino mom in East Boston, this is what it looks like for you:

The bottom line? Esta no es una buena situación y estamos fallando a nuestros hijos.
(Y sí, tengo mi sesgo aquí porque esta es mi comunidad de la que estamos hablando y mis hijos son latinos.)
Parents are stepping out of the dark and empowering themselves with data. The numbers don’t lie. We can see our children are being cheated out of equitable access to high quality education while we create a Boston economy that will have no place for them — except as janitors, cleaning staff or parking attendants.
The time has come to demand better for our children — and more from our politicians. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.
What do you think?

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