National Science Board releases STEM Education Data and Trends

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Publication date: 
4 November 2013

The National Science Board (NSB) recently released two tools relevant to the biennial report Science and Engineering Indicators.  A website, based on the Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) allows users to access data from the report related to student learning.  The NSB also recently released another tool, a Science and Engineering Indicators app for iPad which provides mobile access to the SEI report, the Science and Engineering Indicators Digest and two recent NSP policy companion reports.  The free app is available here

The website provides information about educational progress, state-level spending on schools and childhood development.  The online tool provides information about science and engineering learning at the pre-kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school, and college levels of education.  A section of the website is also designated for information about the science and engineering workforce, including information about the science and engineering job market, labor force and worker salaries. 

For students in pre-kindergarten, the NSB found that cognitive skills of 2 year olds “are directly related to socioeconomic status.”  The NSB also explored whether pre-kindergarten children were read to by a family member and found that “members of families that are at or below the poverty threshold were less likely to read to their pre-kindergarten age children than those above the poverty threshold.” 

The NSB examined average math scores for students who were in kindergarten in 1998-99 through their 8th grade school year and found that “the scores for Hispanic students improved relative to other groups between kindergarten and 8th grade, from 15% below the average for all kindergarten students to 3% below average for all 8th grade students.”  Asian students scored higher in math at each grade though the “gap between the racial/ethnic groups narrowed from kindergarten to 8th grade.”  The NSB also examined how U.S students score in math and science in 4th grade, the proficiency of students in primary school in math and science subjects and the proficiency of those students in each state.  Conclusions included that in 2011, 40 percent of 4th grade students performed at or above the proficient level.  Broken down by gender, 42 percent of males performed at or above the proficient level in 4th grade math while 39 percent of girls scored at or above the proficient level for 4th grade math.

In middle school, the NSB examined how often parents help their children with homework, how students perform in math and science in 8th grade, and how proficient students are in math and science nationally and by state.  The study found that “just over one-third (35%) of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in math in 2011.”  Performance on math assessments was similar for 8th grade males and females with 13-20 percent of 8th grade black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaskan native students scoring above a proficient level in math.  Compared to students from other regions in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), U.S. students demonstrated a higher mathematical literacy than only 5 of the 34 OECD countries. 

In college, the NSB reported on issues including how many undergraduate students enroll in U.S. institutions, how many enroll in community colleges, what percent of degrees are in science and engineering fields, and what is the retention rate for science and engineering in 4-year institutions.  The study also included information about who earns associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in science and engineering in the United States.  The retention rate for physical, computer, and mathematical sciences at the bachelor’s level was 61.8 percent.  This included 43 percent of students who stayed in the same science and engineering field throughout their bachelors and 18.8 percent of students who changed to a different science and engineering field.  “Women have earned about 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees since the late 1990s,” the study concluded; the percentage of women in the social sciences versus the physical sciences varied widely. 

The NSB explored how the science and engineering job market has grown from 1950 to 2009 and found slower growth in the physical sciences than in computer and mathematical sciences.  Engineering occupations have seen a steady increase in job growth in the last six decades.  Due to the rate of increase in computing and mathematics occupations, the number of jobs in those fields is now equal to the number of jobs in engineering. In 2010 the NSB determined that 4.0 percent of the U.S. workforce, approximately 5.5 million people worked in science and engineering fields.  “The District of Columbia had the highest percentage of the workforce engaged in [science and engineering] occupations – 19%.  Virginia (6.6%) and Maryland (6.0%),… were among the 5 states with the highest percentages of [science and engineering] workers.”