U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index

2016 STEM Index Indicates Mixed Trends


We’ve delved into the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index - a comprehensive measure of STEM activity - in previous blog posts.

 The Index, which takes account a variety of factors including educational and economic metrics, recently revealed some mixed results regarding the state of STEM in the U.S.

 On the positive side, the Index showed a rise from 2015 in the areas of STEM education, hiring, and general interest in technology and engineering. Additionally, Hispanic students earned more STEM degrees at every level than last year, and both black and Hispanic students expressed greater interest in the engineering and technology fields.

 However, these gains are accompanied with some more sobering revelations.

 Despite increases in graduate STEM degrees earned, the data indicates that more of these degrees were being earned by individuals on temporary student visas, while the share of degrees earned by U.S. citizens fell. This reflects the possibility that many of these new degree holders will be taking their education and skills back to their home countries.  

 The Index also notes that the STEM education gap between men and women, and between whites and minorities continue to persist. For example, although the number of white students earning STEM degrees grew 15 percent over the past five years, the number of black students fell by roughly the same margin.

 Another piece of data - which runs counter to the student demographics of STEM Premier’s platform - is that women’s interest in STEM also decreased from 2015 to 2016. Females comprise 56% of our student profiles, and roughly half of the 2016 STEM Premier Top 100 are female.  

Efforts continue to expand and promote STEM workforce development, but there is still a ways to go. That is why we are proud to help students, schools, businesses, and other organizations innovate and find the talent they need to succeed in today’s economy.

Making the Grade: The Best STEM High Schools in the U.S.

U.S. News and World Report recently released their list of the best STEM high schools in the country. U.S. News, who is no stranger to the importance of STEM education, compiles the annual STEM Index along with Raytheon. The best STEM schools, according to U.S. News’ methodology, are located all around the country - 13 states are represented in the top 25 – and run the gamut of private, public, charter, and magnet schools.  

How were the best schools chosen? First, a school must have received a gold medal award as part of the 2016 U.S. News Best High School rankings; distinguishing it nationally as one of the top 500 schools.

Out of those 500, AP test data in STEM subjects from each school were used to calculate indices in math and science. When combined, these two indices created a final STEM Achievement Index.

In future blogs, we’ll have some fun checking out some of the schools that made the list, and what our platform tells us about the students who attend them.

Proficiency in STEM disciplines is already a vital - and lacking - part of the U.S. economy, and its importance will only increase. Because of this, we are excited to see high schools being recognized which strive to provide the best STEM education possible. If stronger and more effective STEM curricula at the high school level can improve STEM skills among students, everyone wins.

Looking Closer: The U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index and Advanced Placement Tests

In January, we took a closer look at one of the sub-indices of the U.S. News and World Report/Raytheon STEM Index: High school interest.

Now, we examine another indicator included in the STEM Index, Advanced Placement (AP) tests.

The Advanced Placement Index accounts for 13 percent of the overall STEM index. It records the change in the proportion of STEM AP tests with a score of 3 or higher, which is generally the requisite score for earning college credit. The index also measures the proportion of AP tests in STEM fields as compared with all AP tests. Data for this portion of the STEM Index was collected from The College Board.

The number of tests taken has been on the rise nearly across the board for all STEM AP test subjects since 2000. However, the biggest gainers are Calculus AB, Biology, and Statistics, which have increased approximately one hundred-percent each in the past fifteen years.

Females seem to be lagging slightly behind males in all STEM AP subjects. Regardless,there is a notable and encouraging trend forming. The gap between males and females scoring a 3 on the AP computer science exam has closed from twelve percentage points in 2000 to five percentage points in 2014.

Unique to STEM Premier’s platform is the ability to search for students according to their specific AP test scores, regardless of the subject. Schools or employers can also search for students by ACT, SAT, and a variety of other standardized test scores. These criteria can be combined with a multitude of other factors from geography to gender.

Schools and employers can create their basic account for free today!  

Looking Closer: The U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index and High School Interest

We introduced the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index in a previous blog post. Now, let’s take a closer look at one of the sub-indices which comprise the overall STEM Index: High School Interest.

High School Interest comprises 11% of the total STEM Index and is based on a single indicator. That indicator, intuitively enough, is the percent of high school students who express interest in STEM. The data was gathered from My College Options, the nation's largest college-planning program operated by the National Research Center for Colleges & University Admissions. In 2013, approximately 2.4 million high school students were asked about their attitude toward STEM fields.

So what did they say?

Overall, the STEM Index saw a brief decline in high school interest in the years following 2000, the baseline year of the Index. However, beginning in 2004, disparate trends among STEM areas began to emerge. Interest in math and science began to increase, reaching a peak in 2009. From there, interest seems to have stagnated or decreased. Conversely, interest in engineering and technology decreased from 2004-2009 and has since gained traction among high school students.

A finding that is most likely unsurprising to many is that male students expressed a much higher level of interest in engineering and technology than females. However, both genders indicated a similar level of interest in science and math.  

Unfortunately for STEM employers in need of a constant pipeline of STEM talent, interest alone may not be enough.

 A recent study suggests that students’ – especially female students - negative perceptions of their mathematical ability creates a roadblock to pursuing STEM subjects. Furthermore, students who pursue STEM degrees may even decide not to pursue a career in STEM.

It may be more important now than ever to identify younger students interested in STEM and keep them engaged.