05/16/2012 01:43 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

Slow and Steady Will Not Win the Race

The 2011 NAEP 8th-grade science results are both promising and disappointing.

On the bright side, the efforts of educators, business leaders and other science advocates are paying dividends, however small:

  • Scores are two points higher than they were in 2009.
  • 16 states have raised their scores while none have declined.
  • Underrepresented groups have made significant increases -- black students gained 3 points and Hispanic students gained 5 points.

Yet it's disappointing that progress has been so slow. Young people in many advanced nations are still leaving ours in the dust, and developing nations are catching up fast. And despite the gains for students of color, persistent achievement gaps are stifling opportunities for millions of young people.

Business leaders have been joining forces to move the needle in science. Nearly two years ago, a visionary group of more than 100 CEO's came together to create Change the Equation (CTEq). They are elevating the national conversation on the need to boost student learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and they are putting their money where their mouths are. Collectively they invest more than $600 million annually in STEM learning opportunities. Through the 2011 Igniting Learning initiative, they expanded first-rate programs to more than 130 sites nationwide that serve mostly female and minority youth, who have been least likely to pursue science careers. Students such as Fountain-Fort Carson (CO) High School's Arimus Wells and East Mecklenburg (NC) High School's Kayla Burriss exemplify the extraordinary things students can achieve when they have access to engaging hands-on STEM learning opportunities.

The message here is that everyone must raise their game: educators, policy makers and the business community. CTEq's work demonstrates that business leaders are stepping up to the plate. Member companies are committed to working together to improve STEM learning in the U.S. CTEq aims to align their philanthropy and advocacy around common principles for effectiveness to ensure that their combined investments and advocacy efforts add up to substantial and sustained progress.

We should not deny the progress we've made thus far. But business leaders learned long ago that slow and steady will not win the race.