children of color in stem field

He Made What on that Test? I Don’t Think So!

Posted on Posted in Blog, Color Me Educated

He Made What on that Test? I Don’t Think So!

What’s life without a little challenge? I am sure on numerous occasions you have taught your kiddos the powerful practice of not giving up.  Perhaps you had to urge them to press on when they fell off of their bike.  Or maybe you gave the ‘sometimes you lose, sometimes you win’ speech when they didn’t get chosen for the part they wanted in the dance recital or position on the team.  As an adult you have had plenty of practice at being a worthy opponent when a challenge comes your way.   But the kiddos are not yet as skilled at beating down a challenge.  At least mine still need a little help. 
My son has told me on more than one occasion that he will be an engineer when he grows up.  He has a definite natural interest in all things that prompt questions – which is of course just about everything.  Math concepts he picks up pretty easily, or at least his effort to do so trumps my girls (not being stereotypical, it’s just a fact).  I know that he is likely to change his mind a few times on his chosen career between now, second grade, and when he graduates high school.  Still I like to nurture his interest and let me just say I am already beginning to see a bit of a challenge in getting him there. 
It’s not surprising my son has already hit a slight STEM field bump.  A report from the American Society for Engineering Education shows that the percentage of all bachelor’s degree in engineering earned in recent years are nowhere near equal by ethnicity and gender.  In fact, in 2012 of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering by
  • Blacks  4.2%
  • Hispanics  8.5%
  • Asian Americans 12.2%
  • Whites 66.6% 

engineering degrees by race


  • Women 18.4%
  • Men 81.6% 

engineering degrees by gender


My son complained for the last two years (that would be kindergarten and first grade) that he was bored in math.  At first we thought, well perhaps he needs to be challenged more.  After all we’ve got engineering in our sights.  His first grade teacher assured us that the math would pick up.  She explained the type of math program they taught started slow, in order to make sure their students understood basic concepts, and then would eventually pick up.  And this year it surely did.  Math proved challenging for my son as he had grown accustomed to halfway listening during math and this year when he did and took his first test, the odds were not in his favor. For his sake, I did not want all his years of math confidence to go down the drain, so we tried several strategies to keep him on his desired engineering path:
We talked to him about how to take a test.
We asked the teacher if we could see his test.  Once we looked over the test we realized that the test did not have straightforward match and fill in the blank questions (something he was used to).  Instead he had to think about the answers, i.e. provide various examples of his own.
We talked to him about feeling comfortable asking about the test questions.
We explained that he is allowed to get clarification if he is a bit fuzzy on what the question is asking.  And that it is alright to do so on teacher made tests.
I spoke to his teacher. 
I am a firm believer that there is a connection between teacher expectation and student achievement.  So I spoke to my son’s teacher not only about his test grade but also because this teacher was not familiar with my son (she’s a long term sub).   I knew that she was not aware that he is comfortable with math. That in fact he loves math despite what the test may have shown.  Seeing as this test was the first test impression my son made, I wanted to be sure that his teacher did not believe or expect my son not do well on the next test.  She seemed to ‘get it’.  
We asked for extra school work.
We wanted my son to reach ‘mastery,’ which is teacher talk for making sure that he really and truly understands the material he was tested on.  Not only did she send home extra work but after our conversation she allowed him to re-take the test. (Sweet! As many teachers do not offer – because it’s more work for them- and they do not have to do this!)
The next test my son knocked out of the park.  He came to me later and said,
“I didn’t do well the first time, but I got better.’ 
When heard that I wanted to jump and shout.  More than an ‘A’ on a test we want him to understand that sometimes you will not do well. Sometimes things will not go your way, and in this case sometimes overconfidence can be your downfall.  Most importantly I hope he uses this experience to help him look at a challenge when it comes his way and say, ‘I wish you would!’


Has your child encountered any academic challenges this school year?


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