Primary and Secondary STEM Education
In addition to participating in TIMSS, the United States also carries out the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to assess elementary and secondary students in the United States on subjects including mathematics and science. In October 2013, NCES released the NAEP-TIMSS Linking Study, allowing comparison of U.S. states against international standards.
The TIMSS study also assesses mathematics and science knowledge and skills. Unlike PISA, which focuses on broader mathematical and scientific literacy of students nearing the end of compulsory education, TIMSS is designed to align broadly with the mathematics and science curricula in participating countries at the fourth and eighth grade (approximately 9- and 13-year-old) levels.
Trends in international primary and secondary STEM education can be compared across countries using two widely respected international exams. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) every three years, focuses on the capabilities of 15-year-old students in mathematics and science literacy.
The production of highly skilled scientists and engineers has its foundation in student performance during early education at the primary and secondary levels. Long-term trends in these areas show that students’ mathematics performance in the United States has been slowly improving over the past three decades.
Just as the United States measures progress in early mathematics and science proficiency, other nations also track student progress. Many of these countries, including the United States, participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluation process.
STEM achievement in primary and secondary schools is an indicator of how well the United States is ensuring that students are later prepared to pursue STEM degrees, enabling them to enter the space workforce. Every two years, the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) uses standardized tests to rate the mathematics and science proficiency of fourth- and eighth-grade students.
There is a broad consensus that high-quality STEM education is critical to producing a workforce capable of maintaining a competitive edge in numerous technological areas, including space. However, space leaders, elected officials, and government agencies in the United States have frequently expressed concerns that the supply of potential new STEM workers is not adequate to meet future demands.
An examination of PISA test scores among 14 countries active in space offers a more focused view of relative math and science literacy, which has implications for the numbers of STEM graduates each country produces and in turn the supply of STEM-skilled workers available for space-related professions. Exhibit 4bb shows national PISA test scores from 2009 for major space countries in mathematics and science.
To gauge how U.S. elementary and middle school students compare with other students in math and science, the results of a test administered by the U.S. Department of Education, known as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) provide a standardized global measure. The most recent test was administered in 2007.