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Students Interested in STEM Fields, But Few Plan to Teach Them

By Catherine Gewertz

Many high school students are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, but very few of them want to teach in those fields, a situation that doesn't bode well for the shortage of good teachers in STEM fields, according to a new study.

"The Condition of STEM 2014," released Wednesday by ACT, examines data gathered from 1.8 million students in the high school graduating class of 2014 who took ACT exams. Just under half of those students said they were interested in STEM subjects, but only 4,424 said they were interested in teaching math, and 1,115 said they were interested in teaching science.

"The numbers we're seeing are not likely to meet the expected demand for future STEM teachers," Jon Erickson, ACT's president, said in a statement released with the report. "Highly qualified teachers play an essential role not only in preparing students to succeed but also in raising awareness of and interest in STEM careers, which are vital to our nation's competitiveness in the global economy."

In addition to a national look at students' interest in STEM jobs, ACT also breaks the data down state by state.

The report also suggests that students' interest in STEM subjects outstrips their preparedness. Half or fewer of the students who took the ACT and indicated an interest in STEM fields met or exceeded ACT's "college-readiness benchmarks" in math or science.

Noting that such a gap lowers students' chances of persisting in their major in college and earning their degrees, ACT called for redoubled efforts to identify and support students' interests in STEM fields, and to better inform them about STEM occupations.

"Ideal intervention strategies for these students will allow them to understand what takes place in a specific major or occupation and define an educational plan for them," the ACT report said.

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