Executive Summary

The United States is losing its edge in innovation and is watching the erosion of its capacity to create new scientific and technological breakthroughs. Increased global competition, lackluster performance in mathematics and science education, and a lack of national focus on renewing its science and technology infrastructure have created a new economic and technological vulnerability as serious as any military or terrorist threat. - A Commitment to America’s Future, 2005

Keeping Illinois Competitive confirms the importance of stronger science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to our state’s competitiveness. This report identifies current strengths and critical challenges facing Illinois as it strives to flourish in a global economy where other nations and U.S. states compete.

Illinois’ future economic vitality requires a skilled workforce that can adapt to new technologies regardless of the occupation; a research agenda for innovation; and well-informed, productive citizens. The 21st Century Illinois workers and citizens must have rich, multi-dimensional backgrounds in order to be successful in the emerging economic and cultural environment. The focus of this report is on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which comprise part of a comprehensive education.

After a review of demographic, technological, and globalization trends, as well as Illinois’ performance on a variety of STEM indicators, Keeping Illinois Competitive concludes that Illinois faces five challenges. Addressing these challenges will require the public and private sectors working together to ensure that the STEM education system prepares the skilled workers needed to support Illinois’ economic development and quality of life.

Challenge One: Student Academic Achievement
Slightly more than half of Illinois high school students have the requisite mathematics and science skills for postsecondary education or jobs in the emerging new economy.

Challenge Two: Alignment to 21st Century Knowledge and Skills
State curricula, assessments, and pedagogy are not consistently aligned with the 21st Century knowledge and skills needed for the state’s economic vitality.

Challenge Three: Teacher Preparation
Many mathematics and science teachers do not have the proper qualifications or access to ongoing professional development to improve their teaching.

Challenge Four: Investment in STEM Education
Strategies may not be adequate to recruit and retain the most qualified individuals for STEM professions and for research and development for innovation.

Challenge Five: Lifelong Leaning
In the 21st Century, all citizens and workers will need increasing mathematics and science skills and opportunities for lifelong learning.

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