Narrowing Pathways? Exploring the Spatial Dynamics of Postsecondary STEM Preparation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract

This paper explores geographical factors associated with the postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) preparation of students from underrepresented groups in the School District of Philadelphia from middle to high school during 2008 and 2011. We analyze Pennsylvania state assessment data for mathematics in conjunction with data from the American Community Survey using correlation analysis, cluster analysis, ordinary least squares regression, and geographically-weighted regression. Our analyses find strong relationships among math performance, a key indicator of college readiness for courses of study in STEM, and neighborhood factors within school catchment areas. For example, high percentages of unemployed residents are negatively correlated to math performance, while high median household income is positively correlated with math performance. These relationships vary spatially across middle and high school catchment areas. The results of this research can foster discussions about school reform towards more nuanced, spatially-informed STEM policies that focus on improving the educational outcomes of students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly for those youth living in economically disadvantaged communities.

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    http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/school_assessments/7442.

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Acknowledgments

Research for this paper was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through a grant (Award 1061028) to the Association of American Geographers (AAG). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or the AAG. We would like to acknowledge May Yuan, University of Oklahoma, for her generous guidance and feedback.

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Correspondence to Kimberly A. Edmunds.

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Edmunds, K.A., Pearsall, H. & Porterfield, L.K. Narrowing Pathways? Exploring the Spatial Dynamics of Postsecondary STEM Preparation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Urban Rev 47, 1–25 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-014-0285-6

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Keywords

  • Neighborhood factors
  • STEM
  • High schools
  • Urban schools