Let’s solve our math and science challenges

Readers: We recently launched a new campaign to help raise awareness about the state of math and science achievement in the United States. I’ve invited Suzanne McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation, to talk about the importance of efforts to prepare students for careers in an increasingly competitive global economy. – Ken

The United States is known for its history of innovation and technological leadership – from transportation to medicine to personal and mobile computing.

Looking back, it’s hardly a coincidence that for many years, American students were among the top performers when it came to math and science.

While the importance of these fundamental fields of study has not waivered, U.S. proficiency in them has. U.S. students ranked 25th in math and 17th in science in the most recent international testing.

For the United States to remain competitive in the global economy, this is a challenge we need to solve. That’s why ExxonMobil is raising awareness about this important issue in a new series of commercials running during the Masters golf tournament.

ExxonMobil employs more than 18,000 scientists and engineers around the world. Our success as a U.S. company in a global economy depends on the quality and ingenuity of our work force, and we’re certainly not alone in that respect. But if the next generation of U.S. workers lacks the skills to solve the problems of the future, it’s not just U.S. leadership in energy that’s at risk – it’s also our leadership in medicine, research, technology, and other pillars of the American economy.

Education experts are calling for improvement in education outcomes for American students in math and science. A significant program we’re involved in is the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), an unprecedented effort to improve both student and teacher performance in the classroom. ExxonMobil has committed $125 million to this major effort. Three years after NMSI was implemented in schools, we’re seeing impressive results.

High school students who participate in NMSI programs are six times more likely to earn passing scores on Advanced Placement tests. When you consider that students who pass an AP exam are three times more likely to graduate from college, the bottom line is clear. We need more students being challenged in critical fields of study like math and science to prepare them not just for college, but for their careers.

It’s also clear that students won’t excel without good teachers to challenge and encourage them. We support programs such as the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy and the Sally Ride Science Academy, which are focused on improving the skills of teachers in math and science classrooms so they can inspire students to pursue careers in these all-important fields.

The value of teacher leadership and commitment should not be overlooked. In a commercial that will run tonight during CBS’ 60 Minutes, several ExxonMobil employees thank the teachers who inspired them to pursue their passions. You can view their stories at our website.

While programs like the National Math and Science Initiative and others across the country play a vital role in helping solve the math and science challenge, there is no one solution. It’s up to all of us – parents, teachers, students, policymakers, professionals, citizens and more – to make this a national priority.

Every challenge the United States faces today – from the economy to healthcare to energy and more – ultimately will be placed in the hands of today’s youth. Let’s give them the skills to create a brighter future for our nation. Let’s solve this.

To learn more, visit our website.