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2018 October 6

Cabrillo grant for Hispanics in CS

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:49
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The Santa Cruz Tech Beat article ETR awarded ‘CS For All’ NSF Grant – Cabrillo College, Digital NEST, Pajaro Valley Unified School District to Receive Funding reports on a new grant of almost a million dollars “to establish computer science and computational thinking pathways for K-14 students in south Santa Cruz County”. That is a good thing to support, and the south part of hte county certainly needs more money for education, so I’m all in favor of the grant and its goals.

But there was one quote from the article that I thought was a bit misleading:

“Research from Lopez & Fry demonstrates that while Latinos make up 19% of all U.S. college students ages 18- 24, they earn only 6% of Computer Science bachelor’s degrees,” said Gerlinde Brady, Dean of Career Technical Education at Cabrillo College. “Offering CS and CIS pathways to dual-enrolled high school students who earn college credit while in high school will increase their likelihood of enrolling in college and becoming CS and CIS majors.”

Those figures may be accurate on a national basis, but are they accurate locally?  I checked the UCSC major head counts for Fall 2017 (the 2018 ones aren’t available yet).  UCSC had an overall Hispanic undergrad enrollment of 27.6% (substantially higher than the 19% quoted), and CS had only 12.9% Hispanics, so there is definitely a gap.  Computer Engineering, however, had 24.9% Hispanics, and Computational Media (the department for the Game Design major) had 14.8% Hispanics.  Combining all three departments, we see 15.8%.  The ratio of Hispanics in CS+CE+CM to Hispanics at the University is 0.57—much better than the nationwide 0.33, but still under-representation in computing fields relative to the overall student population.

Of all the divisions at UCSC, engineering has the lowest representation of Hispanics (17.8%) and the highest of Asians (39.8%). Computer Science is 46.6% Asian undergraduate students, the highest of any department on campus, but the fraction of white students (24.9%) is lower than the campus as a whole (31.4%).

Interestingly, the whitest department on campus is Music at 55.8%.  In engineering, the whitest is Computational Media at 34%, in humanities—Literature at 47.4%, in physical and biological sciences—Earth and Planetary Science at 48.1%, and in social science—Environmental Studies at 48.2%.  The least-white department is Latin American and Latino Studies (3.6% white, 91.9% Hispanic).

Division International Asian-American Hispanic White
Arts 6.5% 19.3% 26.2% 37.4%
Engineering 8.4% 39.8% 17.8% 27.3%
Humanities 1.3% 14.0% 35.0% 40.8%
Physical+Biological Sciences 3.1% 29.0% 29.1% 32.3%
Social Sciences 5.7% 23.8% 33.5% 30.1%
Total 6.2% 27.7% 27.6% 31.4%

Totals aren’t 100%, because I left out four smaller categories of students.

A large part of the differences between divisions comes from the fraction of Asian-American and international (largely Chinese) students in each major, but even ignoring that and looking at just the Hispanic/White ratio, Engineering is low on Hispanic students, and computer science even lower.

Those were all head-count figures.  What if we look at graduation figures, which are what  the quote referred to. (These are for 2016–17, so are more an indication of what the campus was like 3–4 years ago—I would expect a somewhat different mix: probably a little whiter than the current mix.)

Division International Asian-American Hispanic White
Arts 0.7% 16.0% 33.8% 42.9%
Engineering 3.0% 36.6% 17.8% 33.3%
Humanities 1.0% 11.3% 37.3% 42.9%
Physical+Biological Sciences 1.6% 28.5% 25.9% 38.5%
Social Sciences 2.4% 22.8% 37.7% 30.9%
Total 2.0% 24.1% 31.9% 35.3%

The graduation figures are indeed a little whiter, but also more Hispanic (except in the STEM fields).   I suspect that the campus has gotten more Asian largely because admissions has gotten more selective as the number of applicants has grown faster than the number of students the campus admits (which in turn has grown far faster than the facilities for teaching or housing them).

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2012 April 26

San Leandro fund-raising for AP Physics

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:46
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According to a Patch article, Advanced Physics Class $8,500 Away – San Leandro, CA Patch, an anonymous donor contributed $10,000 if the community could match it, in order to fund $20,000 worth of instructional materials and lab equipment to start an AP Physics class at San Leandro High.

While I applaud the donor(s) for trying to start a physics class in San Leandro, I wonder a bit at the price tag.  It is certainly possible to spend that much on high school lab equipment—I get the Pasco catalog and they do have some high-priced toys!  But it is also possible to teach AP Physics with much less equipment and with much cheaper equipment (even just changing to a lower-price vendor like Arbor Scientific can save a lot).  I’ve been home-schooling AP Physics this year and most of the equipment was stuff we had around the house. Even buying it all new would probably come to only $300, plus $90 for the textbook.

Granted, equipment designed to last several years in the hands of teenagers might need to be a bit more robust than what I could cobble together at home to last for one lab session, but I suspect that a class of 30 (about all they’re likely to get the first year) could be reasonably well equipped and provided with new textbooks for under $10,000.  I’m curious what the $20,000 will buy.

I’m also curious to hear from people who have been teaching AP Physics for a while.  How much does a decent (not luxurious) lab setup for AP Physics cost these days?  I suppose there are several components:  consumables (1/student every year), textbooks (1/student, good for 5–7 years), student lab equipment (1/group of 2–3 students), classroom equipment (1/classroom), and school-wide equipment (1/school).  What I’m interested in hearing how the budget is divided among the different components.  Put another way—if you had $20,000 to start an AP Physics class (for equipment and materials, not staff), how would you spend the money?

My expenses have been small in part because I don’t need much “demo” equipment—nothing needs to be seen from the far side of a classroom, so I can use little things rather than big ones.  I also had the luxury of having students who were good at math—they already knew how to visualize and add vectors, so I did not need to do all the force table demos and labs.  I was also limited in the time I had with the students (2 hours a week to cover all the material, do the labs, and check the homework), so I may have shortchanged the students a bit on labs. I hope they got enough good lab experiences, and we’re going to do almost all lab stuff after the AP exams, but I do wonder if they would have gotten more useful lab work in a traditional class.

Of course, a big part of savings comes from the simple fact that I’m cheap.  For a one-time lab, I’d rather duct-tape together something that works well enough than pay hundreds of dollars for the shiny Pasco toys, as fun as they are to look at in the catalog.  (Since I’m an engineering professor, they send me the “Engineering” catalog, which I think has even fancier and more expensive building toys than the “Physics” catalog.)  It may well be that the time it takes to make and debug jury-rigged equipment would make it more expensive than the commercial stuff, if a teacher or other staff person were actually being paid to do it, and if the labs had to be run year after year.

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