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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Needle in a Haystack? Seeking Causal Evidence about Using STEM Experts to Improve Student Outcomes.
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED562449.pdf
Abstract
The vast majority of American students are neither prepared nor sufficiently engaged to
become STEM-literate citizens or innovative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM) professionals (National Research Council, 2007; Carnegie Corporation and the Institute
for Advanced Study, 2009; National Science Board [NSB], 2010; President’s Council of
Advisors on Science and Technology [PCAST], 2010). Evidence from the 2012 Program for
International Student Assessment (PISA) international assessment places the U.S. in the bottom
third in science (20th of 34 OEPD nations), and bottom fourth in mathematics achievement (27th
of 34) (PISA, 2012).1
Scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
indicate that less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and
science, with African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students consistently
underperforming compared to their white peers (National Center for Education Statistics
[NCES], 2013), and less than 9 percent of U.S. 15-year olds were top performers (level 5 or 6) as
measured by PISA (PISA, 2013). These results clearly indicate that American students are illprepared
for advanced scientific training or more rigorous STEM courses necessary to pursue
post-secondary education and/or careers in the STEM fields.
Moreover, the challenge of developing STEM-literate citizens and building the STEM
professional pipeline is multifaceted, and represents more than a lack of academic preparation or
achievement. Evidence about students’ interest in science—which predicts students’ pursuit of
science-related careers—is a critical part of the puzzle, as too many high school students report
that they dismiss STEM career possibilities because they neither know people who work in
STEM areas nor understand what such people do (Tai et al., 2006; Lemelson, 2010). The interest
gap is particularly severe among girls and minorities; research indicates that members of these
groups are far less likely to pursue post-secondary coursework or graduate with STEM degrees
than their white and/or male counterparts (Higher Education Research Institute Research Brief,
2010). Increasing students’ interest in STEM is an essential step in increasing their subsequent
pursuit of STEM education and careers as well as the general competency expected of U.S.
citizens in the 21st century workforce (NSB, 2010, 2014).

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