Connecticut Among Top Ten States in Science & Tech
To stay there, state must generate more student interest, proficiency in STEM subjects
By Bill DeRosa
According to economic think tank the Milken Institute, Connecticut ranks ninth in the country in scientific and technological capability. That’s not bad, especially for a state that ranks near the bottom in many other business-related rankings.
The Milken Institute’s 2010 State Technology and Science Index tracks and evaluates every state’s tech and science capabilities and their success at converting those assets into companies and high-paying jobs. It does so by looking at 79 unique indicators categorized into five major components:
Research and development inputs
Risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure
Human capital investment
Technology and science workforce
Technology concentration and dynamism
The top ten states, says Milken, are “the engines of economic growth in the knowledge economy.” Here are the top ten for 2010 with their 2008 rankings:
1. Massachusetts (1)
2. Maryland (2)
3. Colorado (3)
4. California (4)
5. Utah (8)
6. Washington (5)
7. New Hampshire (9)
8. Virginia (6)
9. Connecticut (7)
10. Delaware (14)
“States that got a head start on building their tech and science assets prior to the economic downturn now have healthier, more diversified economic growth engines,” says Ross DeVol, executive director of economic research at the Milken Institute and lead author of the report. “Looking into the subcomponents of the index, we see that competition is growing, however, as states vie for high-tech investment and human capital not just from other states but from around the world.”
Findings Come with a Warning
The Milken findings echo the results of the 2010 State New Economy Index discussed in last month’s CBIA News (Page 15), which ranked Connecticut fifth-best among the states in its capacity to adapt to the new technology- and innovation-based economy.
The Milken study also shows, however, that Connecticut has slipped two places since the last State Technology and Science Index was released in 2008, suggesting that policymakers ought not take the state’s leadership position for granted.
Among the threats to states’ competitiveness and job creation ability cited in the report are declining federal and private funds for R&D, and “brain drain,” a problem Connecticut is all too familiar with.
“As with many other developed countries, the United States faces a drain of intellectual capital from its shores,” the report says. “It is paramount that states support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and funnel more students into these fields.”
More Work to Do
So far, however, it seems Connecticut is lacking in that area. The same day the Milken index was released (Jan. 25), the Institute for Education Sciences: the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education: released its 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science.
Also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” the assessment showed that 41% of Connecticut fourth-graders are performing at or above a proficient level in science: just eight percentage points above the national average. By eighth grade, that number falls to 35%, six percentage points above the national average. (Forty-six states participated in the assessment.)
So although Connecticut came in above average, for a state so economically dependent on high-tech industries and the scientists and engineers who drive them, the numbers hardly seem
impressive. In fact, eight states had a higher percentage of proficient-or-above fourth-graders than did Connecticut, with New Hampshire leading the pack at 48%. Four other states were tied with Connecticut at 41%.
Connecticut was also bested by 14 states with a higher percentage of eighth-grade students performing at or above proficient, with Montana topping the list at 43%.
Funneling more students into STEM fields will largely depend on Connecticut’s ability to close its largest-in-the-nation education achievement gap: the disparity in academic performance between low-income and minority students and others. According to the NAEP, however, the achievement gap in science, like that in math and reading, continues to be wide. In fourth grade, for example, 52% of non-disadvantaged students achieved proficiency, while 12% of disadvantaged reached that level. At eighth grade, the results were 44% and 12% respectively.
“Based on NAEP reports in other subjects and the results from [Connecticut’s standardized tests], we know that performance differences among our student groups have been and continue to be quite large,” says George Coleman, acting state education commissioner. “One of the most difficult challenges facing our education community is identifying the root causes of these gaps, helping students to overcome the effects of poverty, and assisting schools in addressing the dramatic differences in academic achievement throughout our state.”
To read the entire NAEP science report, go to http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/. For more information on the 2010 State Technology and Science Index, go to milkeninstitute.org/pdf/STSI_exec.pdf.
Bill DeRosa is editor of CBIA News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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