The State of STEM

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently released a much anticipated report about the future of STEM education entitled, “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for America’s Future.”  Commissioned by the administration last year, the report provides insight into the challenge of attracting students to science and technology fields, and details the persistent American achievement gap.

The report indicates that there are two underlying issues in American STEM education; the first being a lack of proficiency and the second being a lack of interest in the subject matter.  As it stands now, the United States currently sits in the middle of the pack or lower, the report states, with “less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show[ing] proficiency in mathematics and science.”

The report contained a number of recommendations to help reverse this troubling trend.  Among them were creating new centers of learning focusing on standards and assessments, and encouraging the creation of a new generation of teachers focused on advancing innovation and increasing interest among students.  Eric Lander, co-chair of the report, spoke to an audience at the Brookings Institute prior to its release emphasizing that, in regards to students we “have to focus on inspiration, that everyone is inspired enough to learn something about STEM and many of them inspired enough to actually go into STEM.”  In order to achieve these goals, the report also urged for a doubling of current yearly federal appropriation for STEM education.

While Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the report a “valuable resource” for future initiatives, some have expressed criticism over the potential costs.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: The White House, National Journal, Science, Brookings Institute

Photo Credit: Science Class at UIS courtesy of flick user jeremy.wilburn

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