Helping More STEM Students get College-Ready

Ed. note: This is cross posted from the official blog of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Read the original post

In his remarks last week on college affordability at the New York State University of Buffalo, President Obama emphasized that “higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America.”

Indeed, more and more well-paying jobs—especially those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields—require education or training after high school. STEM fields are some of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy and they are important to the health and longevity of our Nation’s people, economy, and environment.

But a recent report shows that today, less than half of high school graduates in the United States are prepared for college-level math courses, and under a third are ready for college-level science.  Educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs is critical to the continued leadership of United States. We need to get America’s STEM students college-ready.

From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has called for all hands on deck to improve STEM education in America. Under the President’s Educate to Innovate Campaign the Administration has formed public-private partnerships to inspire students in STEM fields and to provide the tools for students to achieve success. 

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is one such partner working to answer the President’s call by improving student engagement and success in challenging high-school math and science courses. Today, NMSI announced that for the fifth year running, students enrolled in its Advanced Placement (AP) program earned significantly higher scores on AP exams compared to the national average. By providing teachers with specialized training, mentorship, and classroom resources, increased class time, and incentives for teachers, students, and administrators to work to achieve ambitious goals, NMSI’s AP program has on average increased by 144% the number of students achieving qualifying scores on AP math, science, and English exams in schools adopting the program. 

The program has also succeeded in narrowing the achievement gap for women and minorities traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, nearly doubling the number of girls achieving qualifying scores on math and science AP exams and nearly tripling the number of African American students doing the same.  And this matters because students earning qualifying scores on AP exams are three times more likely to earn a college degree. 

And in response to the First Lady’s call to support the Nation’s service members through  her Joining Forces Initiative, NMSI has partnered with OSTP to establish the Initiative for Military Families, which has brought NMSI’s AP program to public schools with large populations of military kids.  That growing initiative is already in place at 70 military-serving schools across America. 

Programs like this one help students succeed in courses that will prepare them for college and earn valuable college credit—setting them on the path to successfully earn a college degree. 

As August winds down and a new school year begins, OSTP wishes continued success to students and teachers across the country and looks forward to building more partnerships to ensure that student interest and achievement in STEM fields only continues to grow.  

Arun Seraphin is Principal Assistant Director for National Security and International Affairs at OSTP

Danielle Carnival is a Senior Policy Advisor at OSTP

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