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[Susan notes: Original letter:

Behind in Math and Science

I was not surprised to read "U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show" (news article, Dec. 11). Test after test has shown that our K-12 students are lagging behind not just students in other highly developed or up-and-coming countries, but also behind students in many countries not on anybody's list of up-and-coming innovation powerhouses.

We have a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education crisis in this country, and we must do something about it if we hope to compete in the 21st-century global economy.

STEM education is critical not only to students' success but also to our country's economic future. I sincerely hope that even in today's partisan political environment, the 113th Congress will emphasize and invest in STEM education.


Washington, Dec. 11, 2012

The writer, a Texas Democrat, is ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

Once again we are told that our students do poorly on international tests and that we have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) crisis (letter, "Behind in math and science," Dec. 23).

Not mentioned is the consistent finding that middle-class American students attending well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on these tests. Our overall scores are unspectacular because 23.1% of our children live in poverty, the second-highest percentage among 34 economically advanced countries. High-scoring Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty. Poverty means poor diet, poor health care, and little access to books; all have a devastating effect on school performance.

It is also not clear that there is a STEM crisis: According to Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, there is no shortage of science and technology graduates. In fact, Salzman has concluded that there are two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening.


Levels of child poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), 'Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world's rich countries', Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Impact of poverty:

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13;

Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report;

Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., and Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.

Neuman, S.B. and Celano, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26.

STEM Crisis?

Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801

Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30.

Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads.

See also:

Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007

Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus, USC

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