Infographic: The rise of STEM in schools


What is STEM and why is it such a big deal in schools these days? In 2005 a paper was published that sounded alarm bells about the state of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the United States. Eighth graders placed 12th in the world in those subjects in testing that year, and 51% of U.S. patents had been awarded to foreign nationals and foreign companies. The fear was that if the United States didn’t do something to prepare the workforce for these skills and career fields that the U.S. economy would eventually suffer dire consequences.

Today, 86% of Americans believe that training the incoming workforce on these skills is necessary to maintain America’s standing in the global economy. Unfortunately, only 15% of Americans are pursuing natural sciences once they reach college and beyond. In Singapore, that figure is 67% and in China, it’s 50%.

In 2007 the America Competes Act was enacted, which increased funding for STEM education. By 2013 new standards were passed for this type of education. By 2015 funding was increased again and computer science was added to the roster. 

Between 1995 and 2015 American students increased their math skills significantly. Average scores for Fourth-graders grew from 518 to 539, while Eighth-grade scores grew from 492 to 518. What’s more, both high and low performing students showed progress.

Unfortunately, science scores stayed about the same. It is worth noting that low-performing students’ scores improved in that timeframe, but high-performing students’ scores declined slightly.

The good news is that U.S. students improved their standings in math and science in the world between 2015 and 2018 after the culmination of over a decade of effort, which had to include encouraging teachers to pursue these fields and eventually go on to teach them. In 2015 the U.S. was 35th in Math, today it’s 30th, and in 2015 the U.S. was 17th in science, and today it’s 11th. Progress takes time, and that’s significant progress.

Learn more about the progress of STEM education in the United States below.

The Rise of Stem in Schools
Source: Early Childhood Education Degrees

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Last Updated on February 3, 2021.


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