If parents are intimidated when their kids ask them for help with homework, the kids learn right away not to ask their parents for help. I think it’s as simple as letting parents know it is OK not to know the answers. We want to focus on bringing that kind of support to parents and encourage parents to look up the information on their smartphones.
What training do teachers get to work with underrepresented communities facing so many barriers?
Hill: One of our partner schools is in East Harlem, an area that was historically Puerto Rican and Dominican. In just the last few years, there’s been an influx from Southern Mexico, mainly from Oaxaca. Just as with the school leadership, you have committed young teachers, many of whom have degrees from really well-known schools. They are teaching a population of kids who, in many cases, have parents who are not fully literate in Spanish. The biggest problem is that parents are still mobile since they work in California during the harvest season, then return to New York. And a lot of these kids are not in the classroom a full 10 months out of the year. And how do you address that?
Mathematics has become an impenetrable subject for so many of these students, and it’s not because they don’t have good teachers. One of the joys that we see here is young teachers from all backgrounds who are passionate about teaching.
To what extent do salaries of graduates with STEM degrees motivate students to enter those fields?
Hill: Some big incubators are stressing that they’re not getting enough candidates for local markets, and it is driving up salaries. And it’s not just biology, but degrees in chemistry and engineering. In terms of careers, a lot of employers are more inclined to hire someone with a science degree because they believe they’re willing to work harder; they have more skill sets; and they’re more disciplined. To be honest with you, at our computer-science school, our good graduates all have jobs, and our excellent graduates all have multiple job offers, making high salaries. Our very good ones are getting salary offers of $80,000 to start.
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