NACME BLOG

Equal Educational Opportunity, 60 Years After Brown V. Board of Education

 

Monday, June 2, 2014

On May 17, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision turned 60. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in our nation’s public schools was unconstitutional. Six decades later, the struggle for equal educational opportunity is still not over.

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A recent AP article cited conclusions from The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. An analysis of U.S. Education Department data found that “segregation has been increasing since 1990, and that black students nationally are substantially more segregated than they were in 1970.” The data also revealed that Latino students “…are more likely to attend school with other Latinos than black students are with other blacks.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ powerful article in the April 2014 issue of The Atlantic offers a disquieting view of the failure of segregated schools: “As a school’s Black population increases, the odds that any given teacher there will have significant experience, full licensure, or a master’s degree all decline. Teacher turnover at segregated schools is typically high. And Black students, overall, are less likely than any other group of students to attend schools with Advanced Placement courses and high-level classes like calculus.” This situation leads directly to the relatively low representation of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the STEM fields. NACME’s analysis of NCES data confirms that URM students are not completing Calculus, Pre-Calculus, or other advanced mathematics courses in high school in sufficient numbers. While the majority of all high school students do not take Calculus, a solid percentage of White and especially, Asian/Pacific Islander students do complete these courses.

NACME’s comprehensive strategy of Scholarships and University Relations, Pre-Engineering Programs, Research and Program Evaluation, and Engineering Public Policy is needed now more than ever to combat this situation. Although our studies show that increases in URM participation in STEM have been achieved since our founding in 1974, the studies also reveal that progress has been marginal, neither steady enough nor substantial enough for the representation of minorities to approach parity with their presence in the U.S. population.

Against this background is the more positive and encouraging story of our NACME Scholars. Our NACME Scholars maintain an 84 percent retention rate over a five-year period. They have an average Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. They complete internship experiences with world-class NACME Board Companies like Raytheon, Chevron, DuPont, and Dow to name a few, and accept full-time employment as engineers with many of these companies upon graduation.

To the Class of 2014, we offer our profound congratulations for your academic accomplishments and your passion for changing the world. We hope that you will find the time to mentor URM students in grades K-12, helping to ignite and sustain in them the excitement for the STEM disciplines that has propelled your success. Our children and youth desperately need role models and mentors. We also invite you to stay connected to NACME through Twitter and Facebook and through active participation in the evolving national NACME Alumni network through LinkedIn.

I leave you with the wisdom of our beloved Dr. Maya Angelou: “The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Change the world!