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Making the CASE for STEM Education in the U.S.


General Education

  • The 100 largest public school districts, representing less than 1 percent (0.6 percent) of all school districts in the United States and jurisdictions, were responsible for the education of 23 percent of all public school students. National Center for Education Statistics – Characteristics of the 100 largest school districts 2006-2007
  • Between 1970 and 2007, children ages 3–4 had the largest increase in enrollment rates. There was also growth in enrollment rates for those ages 18–19 and 20–24. The condition of education 2009. NCES/ISE.
  • In 2005–06, about three-quarters of the 2002–03 freshman class graduated from high school with a regular diploma. The Condition of Education 2009.

Elementary/Secondary STEM

  • In 2007, students in grades 4 and 8 showed improvements from all previous NAEP assessments at all mathematics achievement levels. The Condition of Education 2009.
  • The achievement gap between White and Black 4th-graders was smaller in 2007 than in 1990 (26 vs. 32 points), while the gap between White and Hispanic 4th-graders (21 points) in 2007 was not measurably different from the gap in 1990 despite fluctuations over time. At grade 8, average scores in 2007 were higher than in any previous assessment for White, Black, and Hispanic students. The Condition of Education 2009.
  • Despite the gains made in mathematics (and to a lesser extent, science) from the 1990s to 2005, most 4th, 8th, and 12th graders do not perform at levels considered proficient for their grade. Just more than one-third of fourth graders reached the proficient level in mathematics in 2005, and the rates were lower for mathematics at grades 8 and 12, and at all three grades for science. Science and Engineering Indicators.
  • American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21stn in science achievement on the most recent international assessment conducted in 2006. At the same time, the U.S. ranked high in inequity, with the third largest gap in science scores between students from different socioeconomic groups. Achieve Inc.
  • Class of 2005 graduates completed mathematics courses at far higher rates than their 1990 counterparts in all categories except trigonometry/algebra III. The proportion of students completing courses in precalculus/analysis, calculus, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate (AP/IB) calculus at least doubled since 1990. Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.

Post Secondary STEM

  • Between 1975 and 2005, the percentage of students ages 16–24 enrolling in college immediately following high school graduation rose from 51% to 69%. Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.
  • STEM undergraduate entrants generally did better than non-STEM entrants in terms of bachelor's degree attainment and overall persistence. NCES
  • As recently as 1995, America still tied for first in college and university graduation rates, but by 2006 had dropped to 14th. That same year it had the second-highest college dropout rate of 27 countries. Achieve Inc.
  • American 15-year-olds rank in the bottom-third of developed nations in overall performance in math and science. Achieve Inc. 

Workforce STEM:

  • The most powerful computing systems in the world are in the United States, but America lacks sufficient numbers of computational scientists to exploit its leadership position. The biggest single constraint on the deployment of advanced computation tools is the lack of computational scientists. Council on Competitiveness. 
  • America’s innovation advantage rests not just on having the most advanced tools and technologies in the world, but the people to use them. Council on Competitiveness. 
  • Higher math performance at the end of high school translates into a 12 percent increase in future earnings. If the United States raised students math and science skills to globally competitive levels over the next two decades, its GDP would be an additional 36 percent higher 75 years from now. Microsoft Study 
  • If the U.S. improved enough to become a top-performing nation on international assessments between 2005 and 2025, by 2037 its GDP would be an additional 5 percent higher than if skills stayed the same. Improving human capital pays off even more handsomely over a longer time horizon. By 2080, America’s GDP would be 36 percent higher than would be the case if the U.S. remained mediocre in math and science. Microsoft Study 
  • Each additional year of schooling among the adult population raises a nation’s economic output by between 3 percent and 6 percent. High skills lead to elevated individual wages, a more equitable distribution of income, and substantial gains in economic productivity. Achieve Inc. 
  • Because of their sheer size, China and India will surpass both Europe and the United States in the number of secondary and postsecondary graduates produced over the next decade. Achieve Inc. 
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor force growth will slow to below 0.5 percent by 2020 before increasing again to only around 0.5 percent by 2040. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • The U.S. share of the world’s scientists and engineers is projected to fall from 40 percent in 1975 to 15 percent in 2010.  Science and Engineering Indicators 2008. 
  • Many of today’s science and engineering graduates will work in the service economy. They need the knowledge and tools to compete successfully. Council on Competitiveness.


When asked about how pre-college science should be taught, almost nine in ten (86%) Americans say they favor replacing textbook-based education with hands-on science learning that helps students develop skills such as critical-thinking, problem-solving and working collaboratively with others.

Bayer Corporation



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