This week's Education Weekly reports on a new study suggesting that the problem isn't that America's K12 schools are producing fewer highly qualified math and science graduates. The problem, rather, lies with:
...the top high school and postsecondary students, as measured by ACT and SAT scores and college grade point averages, who choose other studies and occupations, a trend that appears to have begun in the 1990s, the authors conclude.Lack of STEM (science, math, engineering, and technology) ability, the new study concludes, "is not what is driving many students away." The implication: K12 math and science education is not at fault.
But aptitude tests like the ACT and SAT may not be the best measure of how well prepared American-born college students are in comparison with their peers from other countries, a much higher proportion of whom don't defect from STEM. Perhaps one reason why American-born students do defect is that they are ill prepared to compete, as Allison reports on kitchentablemath:
The kids with natural math talent who are not utter prodigies DO NOT come from behind at a school like Harvard, MIT, Caltech in the math or sciences. They are completely outclassed by the Russians, Czechs, Estonians, Koreans, Japanese, Singaporeans, etc.The watered-down Reform Math that also began in the 1990's only makes matters worse.
Besides poorly preparing its best math and science students--along with everyone else-- our K12 schools, thanks largely to Reform Math, are also turn many of them off to math and science. As one defector who eventually returned to STEM comments on the Education Week article:
As a teen, science and math were easy and not challenging, even higher level AP courses. Music and the arts encouraged creativity and offered tasks that continued to challenge me.It's certainly tempting for certain people to believe, as the Education Week study proposes, that it's simply that "that top-tier students may regard non-STEM careers—in health care, business, and the law—as higher-paying, more prestigious, or more stable." But it may ultimately be their K12 experiences that pull them away from STEM.