It’s time for a major change. Effective at the end of the month, I am leaving my full-time role at the Boston Foundation to begin working for The Community Roundtable, a social business and community management network and advisory services firm started five years ago by my wife Rachel Happe and her colleague Jim Storer.
I worked in news for a long time. Now I work in an organization that talks about and works to address the achievement gap between white and minority students and the opportunity gap they face every day. But this number I saw today stunned me.
That’s the number of African-American students in Massachusetts who passed the Computer Science Advanced Placement test in Massachusetts in 2013.
How about this number?
That’s how many of those 13 were young women.
Think about that. This is Massachusetts. We pride ourselves on having one of the most robust tech economies in the country. We praise tech up and down as a critical piece of our future economy. Yet as Emily DeRuy of Fusion noted in her post on National Journal’s Next America blog, that “Tech Pipeline is Alarmingly White.”
Actually, alarming might not be strong enough. Data crunched by Barbara Ericson, the director of computing outreach and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech, found no minorities or young women at all took the Computer Science AP in Montana or Mississippi. That’s headline grabbing but not surprising, since only 12 students total took the test in those states. So let’s look at the bigger picture.
Of the approximately 30,000 students who took the exam in 2013, only around 20 percent were female, according to the analysis, and a tiny 3 percent were African-American. Just 8 percent were Hispanic.
One reason there are so few students enrolling in the class and taking the test is that AP computer science courses are more common in suburban and private schools, Barbara Ericson, a senior research scientist with Georgia Tech who compiled the data, told the blog Education Week, and those schools tend to be less diverse than urban and public schools.
Another potential reason is that there are so few women, African-American and Hispanic instructors teaching computer science and so few working in the computer science field. Students are more likely to pursue a course of study if they have mentors with similar backgrounds to emulate.
That’s an explanation, but it’s not acceptable. If any state should be able to battle those limitations, it’s Massachusetts, yet our numbers are actually worse than the average. For 2013, according to the Georgia Tech Research:
- 1087 students in 91 Massachusetts schools took the Computer Science AP – 712 passed
- Of those, 188 were young women (17.6%) – of whom 116 passed
- 34 test takers were African-American (3.2%)
- 56 test takers were Hispanic (5.2%)
- While 66.7% of the overall test-taking group passed, just 38.2% of African-Americans (13 of 34) and 39.3% of Hispanic students (22 of 56) did
- 16 Hispanic females took the test – 5 passed.
- 6 African-American females took the test – 1 passed.
Think about that. In high-tech Massachusetts, you could fit every African-American and Hispanic young woman who passed the 2013 AP test in Computer Science comfortably around a library table.
There are plenty of ways to rationalize the numbers – one can look at who offers AP Computer Science, and so on. But the end number is too stark to ignore. Back in June, a group of high tech executives began pushing the state Department of Education to mandate computer science classes. It’s a noble idea, faced as all new ideas are with the challenge of limited time and resources.
But as these numbers show – there’s plenty of room to grow. And there’s at least one African-American young woman out there who might have some ideas.
Oh God, here it comes. It’s another end-of-year-navel-gazing-I-want-to-be-better-and-here-are-my-three-words-for-the-New-Year post.
Yes it is. It’s also a way to end 2013 with my first post in 381 days.
But on some level, this post isn’t really for you. It’s for me.
Having had a week off (as off as one can have through Christmas with a 3-year-old), I have had a chance to look in the mirror and recognize a person who is not just his job. And I’m neither fully enchanted nor disappointed with what I see. I see someone who has a job he likes, who has a family he loves, who has a body that’s gotten a little heavier and has a mind he needs to stretch.
He’s a little grayer, a little older, and maybe a little wiser.
He’s comfortable, but not satisfied. He’s challenged, but not fully fulfilled.
On the one hand, that’s a pretty good place to be – and reality is, I’m never going to wake up and say, “Oh gosh, this is it. This is where I always wanted to be and I never want to leave.”
But maybe this year is the year that I (and maybe you, if you want) will try a little harder to get close to that perfect place. Maybe this is the year I try to find that balance between work I care about and working to provide for the people I care about. Maybe it’s the year I worry a little less about stuff for myself and a little more about my self. It’s time (and I have said this before, I’m sure) to tap into what really matters – and not worry about the extraneous things.
That slides me into my second word. Part of being able to focus on what’s important is to be able to express what’s important. And maybe it’s the year I learn, after 20 years of working in media and communications, providing the content for other people’s voices, that it’s time to let my own voice out again – to highlight not just what I have to say, but what others say that has value to me.
And it’s funny, until I started this post, I didn’t have my third word. Now I think I do. I want to find ways to bring light to things that matter. I want to bring forward and polish up the pieces of me and the environment around me that I value. And I want to find ways to radiate and reflect better those things that others value in me, and brighten the space around me. My third word for 2014 might be my favorite – at least as the clock tolls midnight and the new year begins. It has the most meanings, and also may be the hardest to live up to.
Three words for 2014: Simplify, amplify, shine.
It’s easy to blame the commute for a lot of things.
I blame it for not seeing my daughter as much as I would like.
I blame it for my inability to find time to exercise.
I blame it for not eating better, since it’s less possible for me to get home in time for family dinner, and gives us less time to cook and eat healthy foods.
While I am working to address each of these issues, rather than simply living with the excuses, the hour to 1:30 I spend in transit, twice daily – nearly 10 percent of my life – is something I have to accept, and use more effectively.
So this weekend I thought, “Maybe it would be a good time to blog?” At least a few days a week, I will use the ride home to put together my posts for the Yankee, and maybe, just maybe it will provide the structure I need to think, gather, share and start discussion.
Hoping to take this blog in a new direction as a way to get it going again. Not sure if this strategy means I’ll stick to it, but it’s worth a shot.
Have a blog? What are your strategies for getting it done?
If you have been an avid reader of this blog over the last three months, you have likely noticed there hasn’t been much here. I’ve been settling into a new job, dealing with the holidays, but st of all, I just hadn’t felt like I had that much to say.
Call it culture shock. After 17 years in news, I was in a new world, and really needed time to adjust. I still do. But I’m getting a better sense of one part of the cultural difference. It’s the difference between good and evil.
And I don’t mean that I was among the evil before, or that I am surrounded by evil now. But the reality is that the news is about evil. As the great Gerry Brooks at WVIT in Hartford pointed out repeatedly, news is about bad things happening to good people. No one watches a newscast that tells you the airplanes all landed safely today.
You can say all you want about the quality of the media today, but the premise has generally been the same. Wars, crime, corruption, all the things that people need to know about in the news (and a lot of why they watch) is inherently bad. Even the weather… When the weather is bad, people love to watch the reporters out in the storm. Think they’d do that on a cloudy day?
But suddenly, at the Boston Foundation, my job is to spend more time seeking out the good. Who are the good programs? What can people do to make a difference? Who is making our schools better, our arts stronger, our streets safer? Those are the people I’m looking for now.
And the cool part? They’re out there. They’re being written about, blogged, discussed, highlighted, and recognized. And of course, part of my job is now to get them in the news. And frankly, they shouldn’t all go there. There are a number of niche publications that focus on good stories, and they have great value. But for all that people say they want “positive news”, repeated efforts to produce a positive mass audience newscast have been doomed to commercial failure.
But if you feel like all you hear on the news is too negative – look around, in your neighborhood, or online. There are a lot of positive things happening. You just have to decide, or get a new job, to get inspired to seek them out.
Maybe that’s something I’ll be sharing more of here.
So, here we go.
I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Boston, and clearing the mental decks for a big change. One week from now, I’ll be joining the Boston Foundation as their Director of Public Relations.
If you’re like many people, your first reaction will fall somewhere between “That’s great!” and “What is the Boston Foundation?” Or both.