Check out our new 2012 STEM Vital Signs! After more than a year of collecting and analyzing data on STEM learning, we’re releasing 51 new reports that offer a critical look at STEM learning in every state and the District of Columbia. In collaboration with the American Institutes of Research, and with generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve collected and analyzed data from a wide spectrum of sources, ranging from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to state departments of education to the College Board.
The Vital Signs reports are not meant to rank or shame states. Rather, as their name suggests, they aim to help states understand the overall health of the STEM learning enterprise and better act on what they learn. What we’ve collected paints a rich portrait of student performance but also the opportunities students have to learn. Much of the information we present, like data on high school students’ access to challenging math and science courses, or the cost and extent of college remediation in math, has not been published before.
That said, there are data we need but don’t yet have. We know precious little about what K-12 students are learning in technology and engineering, for example, or about what kinds of afterschool experiences they’re having in STEM. We’re also hard-pressed to find information on how many students are participating in excellent Career and Technical Education programs. Our new brief, "The Next Frontier for STEM Data," explores some of these issues.
But the data we do have contain often unacknowledged good news. Students have made gains in math in most states over the past decade, and in some states those gains have been substantial. Yet achievement gaps persist, and just as disturbing, so do opportunity gaps. In many states, students of color are more likely than white students to attend schools that do not even offer courses like physics or calculus. They are also less likely to have access to facilities like science labs or to math and science teachers who feel supported. Putting underprepared students through remediation in math costs states millions every year. Forty years after Title IX, women still lag behind men in the numbers of STEM degrees and certificates they earn.
Still, many states are moving ahead with bold reforms like common standards and tests. They’ve been raising the bar and preparing to support schools and teachers as they help students clear it. We sincerely hope that business leaders, educators, state leaders, and other STEM advocates can use the Vital Signs data to change the landscape of STEM education.
“When President Obama helped launch Change the Equation, he pointed to the critical role the business community can play in improving STEM education,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor. “I applaud this coalition of over 100 CEOs for producing this Vital Signs report, which gives business leaders, parents, and others a 50-state-snapshot of the progress being made and work yet to be done to engage our students with rigorous math and science courses, access to hands-on projects, and excellent STEM teachers.”