The storm that threatens the economic prospects of California— and the rest of the United States—is clearly visible, said Jacqueline Dorrance, executive director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, in her welcoming remarks at the convocation “It Takes a Village: Sustaining Effective Education Programs in Science for Grades K-8.”

  • California has ranked near the bottom of all states in the percentage of fourth graders at or above proficiency in science (see Figure 1-1).

  • According to a national poll conducted by the Bayer Corporation (1995), 68 percent of parents and 64 percent of elementary school teachers do not consider themselves to be scientifically literate.

  • In international tests conducted as part of the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA),1 U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 25th out of 30 countries in mathematics and 21st in science (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007).

  • The number of people who speak and are learning English in China is greater than the population of the United States (Yang, 2006).

  • The top quarter of students in India outnumbers the total number of students in the United States.2

  • Between 2005 and 2006 the United States dropped from first to sixth place in the World Economic Forum’s index of global economic competitiveness (World Economic Forum, 2006).

  • An estimated 14 million U.S. workers (11 percent of the total workforce in 2001 at the time when the estimate was made) currently occupy jobs that have the potential to be outsourced to other countries (Bardhan and Kroll, 2003).


As the world continues to change at an ever-faster pace, policy leaders in the United States must ask themselves how they can help prepare the nation’s children to succeed in an increasingly competitive and technologically advanced workplace, Dorrance said. “Are we to give up our competitive edge? Are we to rely on other countries to fill our scientific workforce?”

Are we to give up our competitive edge? Are we to rely on other countries to fill our scientific workforce?

—Jacqueline Dorrance

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