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Quinn Proposes All-Girls STEM Schools to Close Gender Gap in Education

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, August 26 2013

West Point - The U.S. Military Academy/flickr

New York City Mayoral Candidate Christine Quinn, announced yesterday her plan for tackling the city's gender gap in math, science and tech education: establish an all-girls Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) middle school in each of the city's five boroughs.

The campaign press release notes that boys significantly outnumber girls at New York City's specialized math, science and tech high schools, and that only one in four students at many of the city's public school tech programs is a girl. The proposed schools would offer lab and computer sciences, Regents level instruction in science and math, and additional hours of STEM instruction during the school day to support female students aiming to apply for one of the city's specialized high schools.

Quinn, currently the Speaker of the City Council, also emphasized technology earlier during her campaign. The other week, she announced that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and members of the New York City technology community had endorsed her candidacy and outlined her plans for growing the technology sector in Long Island City, Queens. Among other ideas, she highlighted the Coalition for Queens' Access Code program that aims to teach coding skills to women, minorities and immigrants.

On another note, in spite of her support of tech and innovation for the city's youth, and endorsements this week by three major New York City newspapers, a group of online activists are using tech tools for an anti-Quinn campaign. With its Anybody But Quinn effort, the independent group NYC Is Not For Sale recently urged its supporters to participate in a Thunderclap campaign, that, according to the campaign's website, reached around 69,800 people.

Quinn's proposal is similar to the platform of Public Advocate candidate Reshma Saujani, founder of the non-profit Girls Who Code. Saujani proposes expanding computer-science education throughout K-12 schools and offering more applied high-tech and other high-demand skills course options in vocational schools, and also emphasizes closing the computer and Internet access gap among public high school students.

While Quinn has the support of Sandberg, the New York City Campaign Finance Board reveals that Sandberg has so far contributed more to Saujani's campaign, even if they are running for different positions: $2,000 for Saujani versus $400 for Quinn.

Quinn is not the only candidate to put an emphasis on the city's tech issues of late. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is running against Eliot Spitzer for Comptroller, last week released a report indicating that 75 percent of New York City public school have Internet speeds 100 times slower than the national goal set by President Obama for 2020. Stringer's staff also tested speeds at 33 public libraries in Manhattan and found that nearly 40 percent of those did not have speeds over 4 Mbp, the minimum threshold the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identifies as necessary for watching video lectures and participating in other online learning efforts.

Stringer's report recommends reforming certain FCC guidelines to offer schools greater resources and flexibility, exploring city public and private partnerships in order to expand fiber connections to educational institutions, and using the $350 million raised by a philanthropic non-profit dedicated to New York City public schools to help achieve a goal of 1 Gbps broadband connections in all schools.

In late July, the mayoral candidates outlined their various tech platforms, some of which also proposed funding for STEM schools and exposing children to technology at an early age.

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