By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – North Carolina has improved in STEM education over the last 15 years but still has work to do.

Change The Equation (CTEq) released “Vital Signs” on Thursday during a policy briefing at the National Press Club in Washington. The national coalition of more than 110 corporate CEOs that make up the national non-profit helped create these reports to demonstrate the condition of STEM learning in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as measure state performance.

Citing concerns that many states do not hold U.S. students to real-world expectations for success in STEM, this group is calling on governors and other state leaders to strengthen standards and provide a sustained commitment to improving STEM education in their states.

Each state report focuses on core competencies of students studying STEM fields and breaks down the results on a state-by-state basis using a number of reports and sources with the majority of the data compiled from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Click here to view U.S. map of reports. Also, you can view North Carolina’s report here.

The reports arm business and state leaders with the information they need to make the case that most states have not set the bar high enough when measuring student proficiency in STEM subjects – something CTEq is advocating to change.

During Thursday’s presentation, Craig Barrett, retired CEO of Intel Corporation and chairman of Change of the Equation’s Board of Directors, gave a quick timeline of STEM efforts in the U.S., noting several landmark reports that have essentially said the same thing over the last 50 years.

“We have been talking about this problem for over 50 years and not a d… thing has happened,” he said. “Now, we need action.”

Along with Barrett, others leading the discussion included Carl Wieman, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents; Michael Casserly, executive director for the Council of the Great City Schools; and Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation.

This week, letters were sent to all 50 governors and the D.C. mayor urging them to tell the difficult truth about student performance in their states. Each letter also came with a brief Vital Signs report on the condition of math and science learning in each governor’s state.

They also sent another message stating that each CEO will stand by state leaders as they hold the line on higher standards – even in the wake of outside pressure or if pass rates drop.

“North Carolina citizens know that our students and our businesses are transforming. That’s why education and business leaders are working together to ensure all students, teachers, and future workers have the STEM skills to succeed,” said Karl Rectanus, leader of the NC STEM Community Collaborative, a non-profit group in North Carolina focusing on improving STEM throughout the state.

North Carolina is above average in a variety of measures in Vital Signs, but needs improvement in others.

Those areas cited for improvement include raising the bar on state tests, more focus on achievement gaps and diverse learning needs, and more focus on teachers’ content knowledge.

Michael Schmedlen, director of worldwide education for Lenovo, said the Vital Signs report highlights North Carolina’s improvement in STEM performance but notes that there is still much work to be done to improve students’ performance and attitudes towards STEM.

“In order to accelerate the state’s leadership in STEM fields, we agree that two critical issues are modernizing professional development and closing the achievement gap,” said Schmedlen.

“Working together, the state’s public and private sectors must address these issues in order to fuel the economy and attract businesses, like Lenovo, which require a highly-skilled work force,” he added. “North Carolina has a great tradition of public-private partnerships supporting education, and I am confident that we can significantly improve our students’ performance in the STEM disciplines.”

The 51 Vital Signs reports were generated by compiling the most recent data on the condition of STEM learning in each state. Research has already begun for a second Vital Signs to be released next year with CTEq’s CEO saying it will be the most complete examination of STEM learning in each state ever assembled.

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