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What We Stand For: STEM


A White Paper by Susan Traiman for the Stand for Children Leadership Center

A strong STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—education is critical to sustaining U.S. leadership in scientific discovery and technological innovation as well as to ensuring that all students are prepared to succeed in college and careers.

The United States is experiencing rapid economic and demographic change. In an increasingly knowledge-driven economy, most family-supporting jobs require more than a high-school diploma. And the demographics of our workforce are shifting, as baby boomers begin to retire and a growing percentage of workers come from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds.

These factors mean the country needs a larger, more diverse, and better-educated workforce in which more people have postsecondary degrees and workforce certifications, particularly in STEM fields. But it’s not only students planning to enter STEM careers who need a solid grounding in these skills. The problem-solving, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning that students learn in high-quality K–12 math and science courses are prerequisites for college and for careers in nearly every sector. As an expert commission stated, "All young Americans should be educated to be ‘STEM-capable’ … no matter where they live, what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work."

But today’s students are far from being STEM-capable:

  • The U.S. ranked 25th in math and 17th in science on a 2009 international assessment of 15-year-old students in 34 developed countries.
  • On the most-recent national assessments of U.S. students in math, only 40 percent of fourth-, 35 percent of eighth-, and 26 percent of 12th-grade students scored proficient or above. In science, 34 percent of fourth-, 30 percent of eighth-, and 21 percent of 12th-grade students were at the proficient level or above.
  • Despite gains in math performance over the past two decades for all groups of students, achievement gaps remain a major problem. As the accompanying charts show, African American and Hispanic students are much less likely than their white or Asian peers to perform at the proficient or advanced levels in science and math, and are more likely to perform at the below-basic level. Gaps are not closing even as achievement improves for all groups.

The rest of this paper is available as PDF download:


Susan Traiman is President of edSiGHT, an education policy consulting firm.

About Stand for Children Leadership Center

Stand for Children Leadership Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides  leadership development and training to everyday citizens. Our mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate  from high school prepared for, and with access to, college and career  training. To make that happen, we:

  • Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.
  • Advocate for effective local, state and national education policies and investments.

  • Ensure the policies and funding we advocate for reach classrooms and help students

Why Stand?

A message from Stand Leadership Center board member John Legend.

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