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PISA Scores and #STEM Careers

Earlier this month, the latest PISA scores were announced (Program for International Student Assessment). The good news was that 15-year olds in the United States continued to perform above average in reading and math. And as Education Week notes, “American students reported higher-than-average rates of enjoying science, reading about science, and interest in STEM careers.”

It can be frustrating to see that, even after all the emphasis on STEM instruction over the past decade, the United States’ performance on the science exam hasn’t improved and that math has slightly declined. It signals there is still much work to be done to ensure that all students receive the comprehensive education we know they will need to succeed in both college and career.

But it may also raise an important question about the relevance of what is measured on PISA and how it aligns with what the STEM jobs of tomorrow seek. Just as we can often see a disconnect on what is measured in U.S. classrooms and how that applies to U.S. career pathways, we may also see a similar disconnect with what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development measures.

While we may live in a global economy, we know that STEM jobs in the United States vary significantly from STEM jobs that may be found in Singapore, Finland, Poland, or the Middle East.

Job one for educators is to continue to encourage students to find interest in the STEM disciplines. We should celebrate that more students today are showing an interest in STEM careers. We should do all we can to identify what STEM skills are needed to succeed in those careers and make sure our secondary and postsecondary institutions are well equipped to deliver those skills to the kids who seek them.

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