The sweep of digital technologies and the transformation to a knowledge-based economy have created robust demand for workers highly skilled in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). It is predicted that we will fall millions of workers short. To address these issues, new education standards are being adopted nationwide in an effort to engage students in independent analysis and problem solving, extensive research and writing, use of new technologies, and various strategies for accessing and using resources in new situations. These standards have been adopted by 44 of 50 states.
Access to the new “thinking curriculum”, however, is tracked discriminately along socioeconomic and racial lines. One of the more salient predictors of low achievement (standardized test scores) and attainment (high school graduation, college admittance, etc.) among school districts serving students of color and low-income students and those serving affluent white students is the unequal distribution of educational resources despite evidence that shows that ALL children benefit from pedagogically sound science-based rigorous curricula. Many students of color still lack access to the educational resources that offer a fair shot at future success. For example, less than one-third of public high schools serving predominantly African-American and other marginalized students offer calculus. Only 40% offer physics.
On average, black students typically score one standard deviation below white students on standardized tests–roughly the difference in performance between the average 4th grader and the average 8th grader.