Skip to main content

STEM education data promising, but more work must be done

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2013 08:37 AM

For several years now, President Barack Obama has talked about how important it is for American students to take a greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields. Moving American students from the middle of the pack to the top in terms of science and mathematics achievement has been one of Obama's primary education goals, according to the White House.

Obama introduced the Educate to Innovate initiative in November 2009 to make his goal a reality, while 45 states fully adopted the Common Core State Standards. One of the main focuses of the CCSS is raising the bar for K-12 mathematics instruction. In addition, the Common Core's website states that the Standards are internationally benchmarked, which will ensure that students are prepared to compete for jobs with individuals from abroad.

Despite the concerns many people have regarding the quality of the U.S. education system, new research shows it may not be as bad as they think.

Promising data
A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that in 2011, 36 states performed better on mathematics exams than the international average, according to The New York Times.

"It's better news than we're used to," David Driscoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, told the news source. "But it's still not anything to allow us to rest on our laurels."

It depends on the state
When it comes to STEM education, some states do a better job of teaching students essential skills than others. Overall, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota were found to be the nation's top performers. Still, the high marks students in these states received could not compare to those achieved by pupils in some Asian countries.

In South Korea and Singapore, for example, nearly 50 percent of students received tests scores in mathematics considered to be at an advanced level. Only 19 percent of students in Massachusetts - the nation's top performer - did the same.

"There is certainly some support here for the 'we're doing quite well' position," Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the NCES told the news outlet. "But when you do look at those comparisons of the very high percentages of kids at the very highest levels of performance, that's where we do see those gaps that are actually very stark."

In science, 19 percent of Massachusetts students earned advanced scores, while 40 percent accomplished the same in Singapore. On the opposite end of the spectrum, only 3 percent of students in Mississippi were able to achieve advanced scores.