From an interview with USF sociologist Will Tyson by the St. Pete Times’ Kim Wilmath:
As a sociologist, what was it about STEM that interested you?
When you study education, there have been rapid gains made, particularly by women, but also minorities, yet you still see women and minorities behind in STEM education. And STEM fields offer a direct pathway to the workforce. People who have carried the load, the older, white male workforce, are getting closer to retirement. The way we’re going to grow the STEM workforce isn’t by targeting those same populations, but by getting more women, who make up a larger population of students, and minorities, to take high-level math and science courses.
How do you get them on that path? Any ideas?
That’s the key question in this research. There are a lot of different strategies. Part of it is getting students into those higher track courses as early as ninth and tenth grade — getting them into honors algebra 1 instead of general algebra 1. The goal of education is to get the most out of every student, to give them the best opportunity to succeed. It’s up to parents, up to teachers, up to administrators and it’s up to the students themselves.
Tyson is the first author on the landmark study “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Pathways: High School Science and Math Coursework and Postsecondary Degree Attainment”, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 12:3, 243-270 (2007). Tyson just published a follow-up article, “Modeling Engineering Degree Attainment Using High School and College Physics and Calculus Coursetaking and Achievement”, Journal of Engineering Education, October 2011, Vol. 100, No. 4, pp. 760-777.
Update (Monday): For some reason, the Tyson interview was removed from the St. Pete Times web site. That makes this post an exclusive, I guess.