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Gifted and Talented Programming:
Creating a Pipeline of Talent in Math and Science

With the new national security and defense issues facing the nation, a strong education for Americans in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is more crucial than ever. Students in the STEM fields provide the workforce for vital Department of Defense jobs and NASA scientists, as well as supplying the great thinkers in private industry working on new technologies in medicine, computers, and science. However, U.S. students have not been prepared to compete with international students for seats in our most prestigious universities that produce the future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.  In order to ensure the pipeline of talent that the U.S. requires in the decades to come, there must be a renewed commitment to develop and encourage advanced math and science talent in K-12 classrooms with challenging curriculum taught by teachers who understand the educational needs of advanced learners and who have backgrounds in the fields they teach. 


K-12 students in the United States are falling behind their peers internationally in measures of math and science performance.

  • According to recent "Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development" studies, the U.S. ranked 28th in math internationally. [1]
  • The U.S. lags behind other countries in both math and science according to the recent TIMSS study. The gaps are especially prevalent in the more advanced math and science fields. [2] 

The teacher workforce in the U.S. is not trained to provide a demanding math and science curriculum.

  • 61% of high school students in chemistry and a staggering 67% of students in physics did not have a teacher with a major and certification in the field of study. [3]
  • 32% of high school students had a teacher with no major or credential in mathematics. [4] 

Students who have not been exposed to rigorous, challenging math and science curriculum at the elementary and secondary levels are less likely to pursue these fields and are often not qualified to attend the nation's top universities to pursue careers in STEM fields.

U.S. students are not filling the seats in our nation's post-secondary science and math programs.

  • Although U.S. colleges gave 125,000 social science degrees in 1999, schools only gave 19,000 degrees in physical sciences. [5]
  • Only 39% of students earning doctorates in engineering in 2001 were U.S. citizens. This compares to 44% in computer science, 47% in mathematics, and 52% in physics and astronomy. However, 86% of the students earning advanced degrees in psychology and 84% in education were U.S. citizens. [6]

There is, and will continue to be, a shortfall in the American workforce without a strategy to develop well-prepared, advanced students to meet our needs.

  • Currently, the U.S. relies on H-1B visas to help fill the demand for qualified employees in the math and science fields. 65,000 H-1B visas are allotted each year.  In fiscal year 2005 the visa limit was reached on the first day the visas were available.  An additional 20,000 visas were allocated on May 12, 2005, to meet the demand. [7] However, according to the "high-tech industry," the H-1B visa workforce, "barely puts a dent in the IT labor shortage." [8]
  • Even with H-1B visas, many jobs are left unfilled. Tightened U.S. security and additional regulations under the Patriot Act have restricted many sensitive jobs in the Department of Defense, NSA, and top research organizations to U.S. citizens. [9] 

STEM Chart














Clearly, our country needs qualified U.S. employees to fill crucial national security, innovative science, and leading technology jobs. Supporting gifted and talented students with appropriate services in every school district would bring promising results in increased college attendance in math and science, resulting in a direct pipeline of talent for the future. The same programming would also develop creativity and innovation, skills necessary to address future global issues. As MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest said, "The U.S. can succeed in the 21st century only through its mind power and technological innovation." [10]

[1]Floyd Norris, NY Times, 12-7-04, pg A 17, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)

[2]Figure 1-8, National Board of Science, Science and Engineering Indicators 2004,

[3]National Center for Education Statistics, Out-of-Field Teaching in Middle and High School Grades, Indicator 28

[4]National Center for Education Statistics, Out-of-Field Teaching in Middle and High School Grades, Indicator 28

[5]Testimony of Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of the Office of Science in the U.S. Department of Energy,

[6]National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education et. al,  Doctorate Recipients from United State Universities: Summary Report 2001

[7]See U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at

[8]Heller, Martha, CIO: “More H-1B Visas; Fewer Problems?

[9]U.S. law regulates foreign nationals’ access to certain dangerous substances ( as well as limits sharing of certain types of research (deemed export) with non-U.S. citizens.  See U.S. Department of Commerce website at

[10] Charles Vest, then-president of MIT, in remarks at MIT's 30th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., February 5, 2004, at