Earlier this week, two national reports were released, both with important implications for Connecticut’s economy. One, the 2010 State Technology and Science Index from economic think tank the Milken Institute, showed that Connecticut ranks ninth among the states in scientific and technological capability.
That’s not bad for a state that places much lower in many other business-related state-by-state comparisons. However, the report also shows that Connecticut has slipped two places since the last index was released in 2008, suggesting that policymakers ought not take the state’s leadership position for granted.
The Milken study points to “brain drain”—a problem Connecticut is all too familiar with—as a significant threat to states’ science and tech competitiveness and recommends funneling more students into STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math.
The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science—the other notable report released this week—suggests that Connecticut has a bit of work to do on that front. The assessment showed that fewer than half of the state’s fourth-graders (41%) and eighth-graders (35%) are performing at or above the proficient level in science.
Although those percentages are above the national averages for fourth- and eighth-grade students (by eight and six points respectively), they need to be higher—in particular, because Connecticut’s economy relies so heavily on high-tech, science-based industries and the skilled professionals who drive them.
The NAEP also showed a wide science-education achievement gap in Connecticut between low-income students and their more affluent peers. Closing the achievement gap is essential if the state is to remain among the leaders in the new high-tech, knowledge-based economy.