Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 Vital Signs measures K-12 STEM learning state-by-state

A new set of reports from Change the Equation (CTEq) paints a wide-ranging and in-depth picture of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in each state and the District of Columbia. Vital Signs 2012 examines not only student performance but also access to educational opportunity and the amount of instructional support schools and teachers receive. The 51 state reports, which include data never available before, offer specific recommendations for each state to improve STEM teaching and learning in grades K-12.

At a time when job demand in most states exceeds job growth, CTEq has found that job openings nationwide in STEM fields outpace the number of qualified applicants two-to-one, challenging businesses looking to hire. Motivated by this challenge, CTEq’s coalition of companies created the richest and most extensive collection of STEM learning data assembled in one place to guide informed educational decision-making.

The reports have found, for example, that students are spending less time learning science in many states, several states set a very low standard for proficiency in eighth grade science, and many students don’t have access to rigorous STEM courses. For instance, according to newly analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, 25 percent of white students, 35 percent of black students, 29 percent of Hispanic students, 21 percent of Asian students, and 44 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students attend schools that do not offer calculus.

In almost every state, children will get less time for science in elementary school than they did 15-20 years ago, and only six states have high school graduation requirements in math and science that specifically align with college entrance requirements. What’s more, only five of 37 participating states set the standard for proficiency in grade science at or above where the National Assessment of Educational Progress sets the bar, which means that a student labeled proficient in one state may be nowhere near proficient in another.

Sixteen states were unable to supply critical information on how much they have to pay to educate students twice on the same content—once during K-12 and once after high school. These remediation costs need to be readily available and publicly reported and steps taken that ensure students are educated and equipped when they leave high school.

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