Superintendent Lisa Brady's Blog
Lisa Brady Ed.D. is Superintendent of the Dobbs Ferry School District. She is passionate about teaching, learning and shifting the culture in schools. Her blog, Inquiring Minds, looks at 21st Century learners and how to create "Independent Thinkers Prepared to Change The World."
We had a lively discussion this month on my District Dialogue television program with five of our women science teachers at Dobbs Ferry High School.
Did you know that girls that attend high schools where at least 72% of the math and science teachers are female, are 19% more likely to graduate from college with a degree in science or math, as opposed to similar students who attend a high school where only 54% of the math and science teachers are female?
This is part of the data found in a 2015 study published in the Economics of Education Review entitled, “Growing the roots of STEM majors: Female math and science high school faculty and the participation of students in STEM.” Researchers from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Duke University tracked North Carolina public high school student data from middle school and high school transcripts, as well as family income and school characteristics.
A second similar study looked at four years worth of student cohorts in Florida from fifth grade through college graduation and found that female math and science teachers, as early as middle school, make a difference in how many women pursue math and science in college.
In Dobbs Ferry, women comprise 75% of both the science and math departments at the High School. In our Middle School 100% of our math teachers are women.
Authors of a related study published in 2016 in Social Problems, titled “Demographic Characteristics of High School Math and Science Teachers and Girls’ Success in STEM,” concludes that female math and science teachers may encourage interest among girls by pushing them to take risks and go against stereotypes and by raising their confidence in their abilities.
In our District Dialogue program, Dobbs Ferry High School science teachers Justine Henry (Physics/Chemistry), Kelly Rancier (Chemistry), Caroline Matthew (Special Education Biology/Earth Science), Erica Curran (Science Research) and Amanda Newhouse(Earth Science) share a fascinating array of experiences from their high school days and beyond which influenced their decisions to pursue careers in the sciences. They impart their insights and thinking about girls today in STEM programs and offer advice for helping girls to discover and maintain their interest in science.
The message from our science teachers to our girls is clear ….. an exciting, successful career in STEM can be yours!
Click to watch the District Dialogue program here https://ensemble.lhric.org/Watch/WomenInScience
Read Jill Barshay’s column “Education By The Numbers” on this topic in The Hechinger Report http://hechingerreport.org/teaching-profession-isnt-pink-enough/
There is nothing like a good, old fashioned book chat to remind you that we live in the best community anywhere.
Over the past two weeks, I have been meeting with Dobbs Ferry parents in neighborhood homes to discuss Originals - How Nonconformists Move the World by Adam Grant. What a great experience!
Thank you to our gracious hosts and to those who will be hosting the upcoming chats. I am also grateful for our parents and community members who have come out to share their thinking and insights. We have talked about creative destruction, leadership themes, strategic procrastination, birth order and siblings, speaking truth to power and lots of other ideas about how we can create the conditions that we want and value in our schools.
Each book chat is rich and unique because of the participants' perspectives. I find this fascinating and exhilarating. I am hoping that even more parents and community members choose to engage with me as we discuss the themes in the text. If you can’t find the time to read ….. Watch the TED Talk or read the New York Times Op Ed piece.
You can sign up on the PTSA website at http://signup.com/go/ZB3QZH
But most important …….. Let’s talk.
I think it is safe to say that most of us admire creativity?
Although I am not one to spend a lot of time at events such as craft fairs, when I do have a chance to meander through one, I can hardly believe how clever some people are. I am amazed at the things that some people think of.
Does it start me thinking about originality and how we can create the conditions that support innovative ideas and independent thinking in schools? You bet.
In January, the Dobbs Ferry Schools’ Board of Education will be hosting a book chat with our parents and community to discuss Adam Grant’s new book, Originals - How Non-Conformists Move the World.
Grant wrote an interesting essay in the New York Times Sunday Review last year, How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off In his essay, he notes that “Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn’t suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted — as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.
What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”
Getting back to the craft fair, it makes me wonder …… what if all kids ever learn or value in school is how to “follow the directions” or “follow the recipe?” That crafts fair would be pretty homogenous and boring.
I hear too many students asking questions like …. Is this going to be on the test? Or “What do I need to do to get an “A”? These queries should disturb teachers and disturb parents. And for the record, parents need to stop asking these questions too.
A “perspective” shift is in order in our schools. Societally, non-conformists are the “thorn in our sides” …. the people who ask the annoying questions …. the rule breakers … those who are “marching to their own drum.” They are often the students who are the most imaginative and inventive.
In Dobbs Ferry, our vision is to create “Independent thinkers prepared to change the world.” Let’s understand the intersection of non-conformity with independent thinking so that we create and support more kids prepared to change the world.