Developing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent is a key component of the National Science Board’s (NSB’s) Vision 2030 report, which outlines the Board’s priorities for ensuring that by 2030, the United States has made “the investments needed to fuel an innovation economy and remain preeminent in science and engineering” (NSB 2020). Educating elementary and secondary youth and engaging them in STEM subjects is the foundation for developing STEM talent and ensuring that the United States fulfills NSB’s vision. The indicators in this report provide insight into U.S. progress in reaching these goals and the substantial impact that the learning disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have had on the potential for reaching these goals in the future.
Overall, this report suggests that the country has made some progress, with secondary students taking more mathematics and science courses than they had in previous decades and increasing parity in the percentage of students from different demographic groups who are taking STEM courses. Other indicators, however, suggest that the U.S. education system is not adequately preparing all students to succeed in STEM, with persistent disparities in achievement among students from different demographic groups, including Black and Hispanic students and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The indicators in this report also provide insight into the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on elementary and secondary students and the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on certain groups of students.
The report begins with an analysis of student performance in mathematics in the pre- and post-pandemic periods, then moves to an analysis of U.S. student performance in mathematics and science in an international context prior to COVID-19. The report then pivots to consider student STEM preparation for post–high school activities, including high school STEM coursetaking before COVID-19 and the impact of COVID-19 on student readiness for college STEM coursetaking. All comparisons presented in this report are statistically significant at the 0.10 level of significance unless otherwise noted.