The 1983 report A Nation at Risk documented the decline in science, mathematics and technology achievement of our country's high school students. (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) It sounded the alarm that this low level of performance endangers our democracy and decreases our competitiveness in the global economy. Multiple studies since then have confirmed similar declines in student performance, yet they continue - especially in urban schools with an economically disadvantaged student population.
The U.S. is now the only industrialized country in the world in which today's young people are less likely than their parents to have completed high school. (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008) By 2020, the nation's African-American population is expected to increase by 10 percent, the Latino population by a full third. Yet, more than one in every three students from these fast-growing groups do not graduate from high school on time. This is a startling turn for our nation, which prides itself on extending educational opportunity to everyone. And it increases the likelihood that we will not reverse the factors that have resulted in a dwindling science and engineering workforce pipeline in this country. We must address the decrease in the number of non-minority American men entering science and technology fields and the significant under-representation of women in the natural sciences and engineering. We must find ways to engage, prepare, and welcome more women and members of ethnic minority groups into the science and engineering disciplines that fuel our economy.
We must also engage the general public in issues that that are becoming increasingly complicated, requiring a greater understanding of science and its broader implications, especially in emerging new fields such as bio-engineering and nano-scale science and technology.
Stanford is one of the first U.S. universities to create a permanent office dedicated to addressing societal concerns about declining achievement in U.S. K-12 schools, the inadequate supply of trained American scientists and engineers to fill future jobs in the U.S., and the overall decline in scientific literacy of our citizenry. With the creation of the Office of Science Outreach, Stanford demonstrates its commitment to engaging in vigorous science outreach to enhance the scientific and technological literacy of our community and future workforce.
Kaye Storm, Director Office of Science Outreach November 18, 2008