Building a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education Agenda: An Update of State Actions.

Type Journal Article - NGA Center for Best Practices
Title Building a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education Agenda: An Update of State Actions.
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
or several years, governors and education policy
leaders have been working to strengthen
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM) education throughout the states.
The immediate goals are twofold: increase the
proficiency of all students in STEM and grow the
number of students who pursue STEM careers
and advanced studies. The reasons are straightforward:
STEM occupations are among the highest
paying, fastest growing, and most influential in
driving economic growth and innovation. Individuals
employed in STEM fields enjoy low unemployment,
prosperity, and career flexibility. In
short, STEM education is a powerful foundation for
individual and societal economic success.
Unfortunately, the United States has fallen behind
in fully realizing the benefits of STEM education.
Results from the National Assessment of Educational
Progress over roughly the past 10 years
show little improvement in high school seniors’
knowledge of math and science. Moreover, the Program
for International Student Assessment, which
provides cross-country comparisons, shows that
U.S. students currently rank behind 25 countries in
math scores and behind 12 countries in science
scores. These factors may have contributed to another
problem: the slow growth in postsecondary
degrees awarded in STEM fields over approximately
the past decade. This lack of strong degree
growth is causing the United States to fall behind
other countries that are surging ahead to create a
STEM talent pool. For example, U.S. STEM degrees
represent only about one-third of bachelor’s degrees,
but they represent more than half of the first
degrees awarded in Japan, China, and Singapore.
The reasons the United States lags behind its
competitors in producing STEM graduates have
been well documented. They include:
• Lack of rigorous K–12 math and science standards.
Standards in math and science have varied
greatly across states and, in many cases, do
not test students’ abilities to utilize concepts and
solve problems.
• Lack of qualified instructors. A shortfall in the
numbers of qualified math and science teachers
in the classroom is a chronic problem in the K–12
system; many classrooms are staffed by teachers
with neither a certificate nor a degree in their assigned
subject area.
• Lack of preparation for postsecondary STEM
study. A student’s ability to enter and complete a
STEM postsecondary degree or credential is often
jeopardized because the pupil did not take
sufficiently challenging courses in high school or
spend enough time practicing STEM skills in
hands-on activities.
• Failure to motivate student interest in math
and science. In most K–12 systems, math and
science subjects are disconnected from other
subject matters and the real world, and students
often fail to see the connections between what
they are studying and STEM career options.
• Failure of the postsecondary system to meet
STEM job demands. Although STEM jobs are
expected to grow by 17 percent between 2008
and 2018, many higher education institutions—
including community colleges, four-year colleges,
and research universities—have not made an
effort to increase their output of STEM degrees
or certificates.

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