President Obama launched several new initiatives in 2010 aimed at improving STEM education.

Results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, released in late 2010, showed the United States continuing to fare in the middle of the pack in terms of math and science achievement; U.S. students ranked 25th out of 65 industrialized countries in average math scores on the exam, and 17th in science.

But even before the new PISA figures came out, federal officials had ramped up their efforts to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

Building on the “Educate to Innovate” initiative he launched in November 2009, President Obama on Jan. 6 announced the creation of several new partnerships to help attract, develop, reward, and retain outstanding STEM teachers. Later in the year, he announced a grant program that challenged students to design their own video games, and he set a goal of recruiting 10,000 new STEM teachers in the next two years. The White House also hosted its first-ever science fair in October to showcase the work of exemplary students.

An Oct. 6 summit revealed the need for more computer-science teachers in particular, as it was revealed that fewer than 65 percent of K-12 schools in the United States offer even an introductory-level computer science course, never mind rigorous training. Educators also debated the merits of introducing national engineering standards into K-12 education this past year, with some believing this was a good idea but others saying there are too many curriculum standards as it is.

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Study points to uncertainty of K-12 engineering standards

DARPA-funded project to spark computer science education

What U.S. schools can learn from abroad