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West Virginia Students Are Looking to STEM for Future Careers

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November 19, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia students have a greater interest in STEM jobs than most of their peers across the nation. According to the ACT's The Condition of STEM 2014 report, West Virginia is one of the top performers in the percent of high school graduates who took the ACT and are interested in a future career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

The report, released today, indicates that 11,191 West Virginia students took the ACT in 2014. Of that number, 6,201 (55 percent) have an interest in STEM. The report also shows that 54 percent of West Virginia 2014 graduates are interested in medical and heath majors/occupations compared to 43 percent nationally. Among state students, nursing was the most common choice in the medical and health area.

"This is extremely encouraging news as we work to reach our One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving Vision Plan goal of increasing graduation and attendance rates," said Michael Martirano, West Virginia superintendent of schools. "The latest ACT STEM data tells us that high school students are engaged in the STEM fields. This data not only helps the West Virginia Board of Education and the department set the course for future STEM initiatives but also links into the West Virginia job market and the West Virginia Council on STEM recommendations."

Earlier this week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin received recommendations and a final report from the West Virginia Council on STEM. The council's final report highlighted the urgency for an increase in STEM education to meet future workforce demands and recommended specific ways to best address this growing need.

ACT's The Condition of STEM 2014 report also looked at the percentage of test takers ready for college level courses. The ACT college readiness benchmarks are scores used to indicate a student has at least a 50 percent chance of getting a grade of B or higher in first-year college courses.

According to the ACT report, the percentage of West Virginia students interested in STEM meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for English exceeded the nation. Seventy percent of state students met the benchmark compared to 68 percent nationally. The percentage of West Virginia students meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for Reading was equal to their national peers (48 percent). More students across the nation interested in STEM met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Mathematics (50 percent) than did West Virginia students (37 percent). The report found that more West Virginia males interested in STEM met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Mathematics (45 percent) than did their female classmates (30 percent). Nationwide, more students interested in STEM met the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Science (43 percent) than did the West Virginia students (38 percent).

"We still have work to do especially related to math and science but I am proud of the progress made by our teachers, students and parents," added Martirano. "We understand that raising ACT scores will require academic intervention and changes in current practices. As we move forward, there must be an unwavering focus on preparing our students for future personal and professional success and a stronger and healthier state economy."

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test made up of four separate exams in English, reading, mathematics and science, plus an optional writing test. The test is administered in all 50 states and is the predominant college entrance exam in 25 states, including West Virginia. ACT also assesses a student's ability to succeed in college.

For more information, contact the WVDE Communication Office at (304) 558-2699 or to access The Condition of STEM 2014 report visit ACT's website at www.act.org/stemcondition.

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