A common aversion to math and science by American students is well known. “It’s boring” or “It’s too hard” are among frequently cited reasons given by students.
However, more than half of parents (52%) believe the math and science education their kids are getting is “fine as it is.[i]” Attitudes like this, however, may have contributed to the U.S. falling to the middle of a ranking of nations: 25th in math and 21st in science[ii].
As part of a national program to boost private and philanthropic involvement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, President Barack Obama has announced a new CEO-led initiative involving The Nielsen Company.
Obama’s Change the Equation (CTEq) campaign is aimed at cultivating literacy in STEM education.
Comprised of the chief executives of 105 companies across multiple sectors, CTEq will lead the way on developing data-based criteria to define program success, identifying what works and what does not. The organization will also create a state-by-state scorecard to assess the condition of STEM education in all 50 states.
Nielsen’s involvement in CTEq comes on top of its involvement in promoting STEM education in the Tampa Bay area, where for the last several years the company has supported the Career Technology Education Foundation, hosted STEM summits to highlight the importance of those skills, provided internships to high school students and fostered relationships with universities and community colleges
“When Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable and a founding member of Change the Equation, personally asked Nielsen to be a part of this important cause, (Nielsen CEO) Dave Calhoun jumped at the opportunity to be involved. Math, engineering and technology are at the heart of what we do, and national literacy in these subjects is a business imperative for our nation’s economic excellence and success,” said Susan Whiting, Vice Chair of Nielsen and leader of the company’s participation in CTEq.
“Being a part of Change the Equation is a natural move for Nielsen. It’s about taking what we have been doing in Tampa and joining with other companies with similar commitments to STEM education and building it out on the national level,” added Whiting.
The CTEq program involves dozens of high profile participants, including former astronaut Sally Ride. “You could say that STEM education is my current mission,” said Ride, vice chair of Change the Equation and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interest in science, math and technology. “The key to improving STEM education in this country is to take programs we know work and replicate them across the country.”
The facts about American students’ STEM literacy are sobering: Only 43% of high school graduates are ready for college-level math, and just 29% are ready for college-level science[iii]. Traditional STEM fields will represent 5% of employment – or about 8 million jobs – by 2018[iv], the second-fastest growing occupational group second only to healthcare. Women and minorities remain underrepresented in the technical workforce even though their numbers are increasing overall. One of CTEq goals is to target these groups, with African-American, Hispanic and low-income students being a particular focus as they are significantly less likely to be taught by teachers with advanced degrees in math and science.
“If we don’t encourage our children and students to get excited about math as well as science, technology and engineering, we are denying them the chance to reach their potential and be prepared for a future filled with opportunity,” said Linda Rosen, Chief Executive Officer of CTEq.
At this afternoon's event announcing the CTEq initiative, President Obama said, "We’re here for a simple reason: Everybody in this room understands that our nation’s success depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation. And all the CEOs who are here today understand that their company’s future depends on their ability to harness the creativity and dynamism and insight of a new generation. What I’ve also said for a long time is that our success will not be attained by government alone. It depends on teachers and parents and students and the broader community. It depends on us restoring an insistence on excellence in our classrooms and from our children. And that’s why last year I challenged scientists and business leaders to think of creative ways to engage young people in math and science. And now they are answering the call."
CTEq Video via WhiteHouse.gov
[i] Public Agenda (2010). “Are We Beginning to See the Light”
[ii] Melody Barnes, Director of Domestic Policy Council
[iii] ACT (2010). The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2010.
[iv] Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (2010)