The United States may be damned with faint praise this morning, as the newly released 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show American 15-year-olds have improved to perform in the middle of the pack of 34 industrialized countries in science, while their math performance remained below the average. The results are apt to goad an already-urgent debate about how to move scientifically talented youngsters from science and math classrooms to economy-spurring science careers.
Yet a new 25-year longitudinal study of America's top-performing students suggests even a natural interest in or talent for science doesn't guarantee a student will become an accomplished scientist as an adult. Rather, students who received early and strong 'doses' of both STEM courses and enrichment were more likely than their academic peers to become advanced scientists as adults.
I really believe in STEM, and it's clear that we can't assume that students who are interested in science still need to be encouraged in school.