[Susan notes: Use the statistics Stephen Krashen provides for your own letter on the bogus STEM crisis.]
Submitted to Science but not published
Transformation is possible. . . (April 19) contains ideas for improvement, but the suggestions should not be framed as a response to the accusation that the US has been failing in science education: ". . .universities are squandering talent at a time when U.S. higher education is being criticized for not turning out enough science-savvy graduates to keep the country competitive" (p. 292).
There is good evidence that this accusation is false: There is no evidence that American science education is failing and no evidence that we face a shortage of qualified STEM professionals.
American students are doing well not only in science and math but in other subjects as
well. Our unspectacular scores on international tests are because we have so many students living in poverty, 23%, the second-highest among all industrialized countries. When researchers control for poverty, American international test scores are at the top of the world. In fact, middle class American students in well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Poverty means
poor nutrition, poor health care, and little access to books: All of these have powerful effects on school performance.
The US produces more top science students than other countries: On the 2006 PISA math and science tests, 60,000 American students scored in the top category, compared to 34,000 Japanese students. Also, American students are taking more
math and science than the economy needs: In 2007, 30% of college-bound high-school seniors had taken calculus, but only 5% of new openings require a math/science background.
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. Studies have also shown the US is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.
There is good evidence that contrary to popular opinion, we are turning out more than enough "science-savvy graduates."
Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus, USC