An update on our Equity in High School STEM Work (April 2021)

100Kin10 Communities and Coordinated Action

In 2015, 100Kin10 partners came together to map the Grand Challenges underlying the STEM teacher shortage. Through several years of research and the application of Big Data and network science on the STEM ecosystem, we identified the most influential among these causes -- what we call “the catalysts.” We identified three of these for collaborative, networked action: 

- Teacher Work Environments (launched in 2018)

- Foundational Math (launched in 2019)

- Equity in HS STEM (launched in 2020) 

Since starting this work, we have written three reports on these catalysts (and have two forthcoming updates!) and nearly 200 partners have worked together to develop tangle solutions to these challenges. 

In 2020, 100Kin10 launched  “100Kin10 Communities”  to provide a way for partners to come together to incorporate a racial equity lens into their work on these catalysts, as well as innovate around the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. 100Kin10 Communities:

- Work together over the course of 4 months 

- Are defined and led by partner(s)

- Are supported by “research scouts” who shadow the Equity in HS STEM Communities and provide real-time research on the questions/challenges that are coming up in their learning work (Ellie Goldberg is the Equity in High School STEM Research Scout. Ellie is currently pursuing her PhD in STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin and formerly worked for the Center for STEM Education at UT Austin and is the Equity in High School STEM Research Scout.)

Some Communities are focused on learning and support while others are working on tangible outputs such as toolkits that can not only improve their work, but the work of others in the network and beyond. 

In December 2020 six communities launched around Equity in HS STEM: 

- Unconventional STEM Career Pathways

- Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Online Instruction

- Statistical Literacy, Computational Thinking, and Social Justice

- Distance and Digital learning: Challenges and Opportunities

- Incorporating College and Career Planning into STEM Courses

- Implicit Bias in High School STEM

In February 2021 two communities launched around Foundational Math: 

- Elementary Teacher Preparation with a STEM Focus

- Transforming Foundational Math Pedagogy

See here for a full list of Communities, their descriptions, and members and leaders. 

We are so grateful to Dell Technologies for their partnership in experimenting with new ways to support learning and innovation around our Equity in HS STEM work, especially during this challenging time. 

In this blog post we will do a deep-dive on what the Equity in High School STEM Communities have been up to, what they are learning, the themes that have emerged across these six communities as well as the overarching themes that have emerged across the Foundational Math and Equity in High School STEM communities. 

For a deep-dive on our Foundational Math work, please see this blog post

OUR EQUITY IN HS STEM COMMUNITIES: Highlights from their Work  

Six communities are working to ensure that high school STEM is not only equitable for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, but a vehicle for racial justice that is responsive to needs emerging from COVID-19. 

Two communities are focused on emphasizing  the importance of providing Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students with the highest quality of STEM high school education courses:

- The Incorporating College Planning in STEM Courses Community led by Renee Sweeden of Chandler Unified school district and Josie Rodriguezof Western Governors University is thinking through redesigning high school STEM courses to incorporate college and career planning to better prepare students for the workforce. They are exploring different approaches to create greater accessibility for STEM career pathways for underrepresented students.

- The Unconventional STEM Career Pathways Community led by Anne Kornahrens, from the American Physical Society and the STEP UP Project are grappling with how to ensure that historically marginalized students have greater access to STEM coursework that is culturally relevant. They are designing a toolkit to support teachers in engaging and facilitating difficult conversations of racial equity with parents, administrations, and other community members.

With so many high school students learning virtually, one of our Communities is focusing exclusively on digital learning. 

- Melissa Thibault, from the University of North Carolina, and Vicky Pilitsis, from Hopewell Valley Regional School District, have led the Distance and Digital Learning: Challenges and Opportunities Community. They are passionate about creating systems in schools to ensure that students still receive high quality STEM high school coursework during distance and digital learning. The virtual classroom may not be a model of teaching and learning that entirely disappears, so ensuring that students receive the highest quality STEM education possible is crucial.

These three communities have explored the power of educators utilizing culturally responsive pedagogies as a method of building empowerment and self-efficacy among Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students in  STEM classrooms. 

- The Statistical Literacy, Computational Thinking, & Social Justice Community has been led by Renae Williams, from Mouse, and Gideon Weinstein, from Western Governors University. This Community has been exploring ways for students to build their critical consciousness by examining social justice issues through curriculum-based in statistical literacy.

- The Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Online Instruction Community led by Frederick Freking, from USC Rossier School of Education, and Lara Smetana, from Loyola University Chicago is deeply engaging with and discussing  Science in the City: Culturally Relevant STEM Education by Bryan A. Brown. This book stresses the importance of STEM educators incorporating a multi-cultural approach to urban science education so students can make meaningful connections between science and their culture. 

- The Implicit Bias in High School Community, is led by Peg Cagle, a Secondary Math Teacher at Los Angeles Unified School District. This team is centering racial justice by exploring the role a teacher’s implicit bias may have on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students. In hopes that when these students enroll in STEM courses, they can reach their full potential and thrive. They are focused on exploring how teachers can broach difficult conversations that are crucial to ensuring all students are treated in a manner that is strength-based and not rooted in racial stereotypes.

WHAT ARE WE LEARNING: Themes from our Equity in HS STEM Communities 

Cultivating STEM Identity

While these six communities have specific focus areas related to equity in high school STEM, common themes have come up across conversations and meetings. All the communities are talking about what it looks like to promote STEM identity for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students. The STEM high school classroom needs to look and feel different for our most historically marginalized students, and they need to see a place for themselves as statisticians, engineers, and technology entrepreneurs. It is not enough for them to just be in the classroom. Instead, they need to be supported in envisioning themselves as leaders in the field. These Communities are empowering  practitioners and teachers so they can design classrooms that allow all students to build positive STEM identities.

Critical Pedagogies 

All  communities are talking about infusing social justice and culturally relevant pedagogy into math and STEM curriculum. Through Critical Pedagogy, students utilize their lived experiences as a way to synthesize their lives through a historical, political, and economic framework. This process makes structures of oppression visible as students develop a transformative critical consciousness. This may look like students learning statistics to analyze school-to-prison pipeline data or learning code to build community-based websites.  

CROSS-CUTTING THEMES: Racial Justice through STEM

Our Foundational Math and Equity in High School STEM communities care deeply about racial justice, and through their work, they are figuring out how to make an impact. Equity does not fully address structures of racism and historical oppression. It assumes the problem is accessibility, ignoring the racialized experiences of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students in the educational system. A racial justice lens takes this a step further; this approach is actively anti-racist and takes a root-cause approach to solve racial inequalities. Designing an educational system where Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students thrive requires the active dismantling of oppressive structures.

All eight of our communities are creatively figuring out how to meet the specific needs of our historically marginalized students through elementary and high school STEM classrooms. Through their work and conversations, they are reimagining  educational structures so that Black students, Latinx students, and Indigenous students thrive in elementary school and high school math and STEM coursework and beyond. It’s been an absolute honor to witness the dedication all our Communities have towards meeting our elementary and high school students’ needs through one of the most challenging years in our collective memories.


We’d love to invite you to continue to build on this work with us and share your unique expertise and energy! Below you will find some upcoming ways to get involved:

Register for our event, Breaking Down Silos: Exploring Working Environments, Equity in High School STEM & Foundational Math Catalysts

Join us on May 27 from 2:00--4:30 pm ET to explore the insights and resources emerging from this work, particularly as it relates to the development of STEM identity in students and educators and recovering and rebuilding from the pandemic. This event will be an opportunity to hear directly from Communities working on equity in high school STEM (and our other catalysts, foundational math, and work environment for teachers), dive deep in small groups, and connect with like-focused peers. 

Eager to join a Community with others on this topic?

In mid-June , we will be launching a call for partners to propose and lead a new Community related to equity in high school STEM. Once we have these topics set, we will invite partners to join. Want to learn more or already know you want to be a part of a Community? Email Julie.