Losing Ground: Fewer Silicon Valley 11th Graders Ready to Go to College or Work

By John Melville

Despite greater attention to educational improvement in recent years, the latest state test results show that fewer Silicon Valley high school students are ready for college or the world of work.  After three consecutive years of improvement on the Smarter Balanced English Language Arts and Math exams, the share of students in 11th grade that met or exceeded state standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics declined in Silicon Valley in 2017-18.  This pattern mirrored the trend in California more broadly among 11th grade test takers – declines after years of improvement.

As the chart below shows, only 64% of Silicon Valley students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts in 2017-18, down from 69% in 2016-17, and even lower than in 2014-15.  In addition, only 47% of students were proficient in math in 2017-18, down from 48% in 2016-17.  Put another way, fully 36% of Silicon Valley 11th graders do not meet state standards in English Language Arts, and 53% fall short in Mathematics.

11th grade English and Math 2018Moreover, the gap in student test scores by ethnicity in Silicon Valley remains stark, and more dramatic than the rest of California.  For example, there was a 60% gap between the share of Asian students (78%) and the share of Latino students (18%) that met or exceeded state standards in Math. At the state level, this gap was 55%.  In Silicon Valley, the share of 11th grade Latino students meeting or exceeding state standards in Math has continued to decline the past three years from 20% to 19% to 18%.  As a result, today fully 56% of all Silicon Valley 11th graders that are not meeting Math standards are Latino students, a total of more than 8,400 students.

Although we should be careful not to over-interpret a one-year decline in overall test scores, we also should not overlook the fact that the percentage of Silicon Valley students falling short of state standards remains high, and the gap between top-performing groups and lower-performing groups remains large.

Let us know what you think should be done to raise the level of student achievement.  And, be sure to stay tuned for additional educational achievement data in the 2019 SVCIP report.

John Melville is Co-CEO of Collaborative Economics.



Silicon Valley Best at Filling its STEM Talent Pool

By John Melville

For innovation regions like Silicon Valley, the size and growth of its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) talent pool is a critical ingredient of economic success.  People with STEM skills are essential in researching, developing, improving, and scaling innovative technologies, businesses and processes.

As of 2017, our region had 354,990 STEM workers, much more than most other innovation regions.  Silicon Valley’s STEM talent pool is almost four-times larger than that of Austin (91,470), and substantially larger than both Seattle (199,780) and Boston (186,670).  Of the SVCIP comparison regions, only the megaregions of New York City and Southern California have more STEM workers.SVCIP_vEmpGrowth

Silicon Valley also has a much higher concentration of STEM talent than other innovation regions—that is, the proportion of STEM workers in the overall workforce relative to the national average.  High concentration is important, indicating a strong specialization in STEM talent-driven industries in the regional economy.  Some regions have larger absolute numbers but lower concentrations (e.g., Southern California, New York City region), while others have higher concentrations but lower absolute numbers (e.g., Seattle, Boston, Austin).  As the chart shows, Silicon Valley ranks highest on concentration and among the largest in terms of size.

Moreover, Silicon Valley in recent years has been extending its lead.  Between 2012 and 2017, STEM jobs grew 30% in the region.  Unsurprisingly, this growth was largely driven by employment in occupations related to computer, web and telecommunications, which rose 38% during this period.  Austin, with a much smaller STEM workforce, grew 24%.  Other regions grew much more slowly:  New York City (13%), Seattle (9%), Southern California (9%), and Boston (4%).  Bottom line:  Silicon Valley is both closing the gap in terms of total size of the STEM workforce with New York City and Southern California, as well as outpacing the smaller innovation regions of Austin, Seattle, and Boston in terms of growth.

SVCIP_vConcGrowthOne more indicator of the region’s STEM strength:  between 2012 and 2017, STEM jobs grew faster than the regional economy only in Silicon Valley and New York City.  The chart below shows the change in concentration of STEM jobs relative to all jobs, with Silicon Valley’s concentration growing 3%, New York City’s growing 1%, and all the other comparison regions experiencing slower growth of STEM jobs compared to the regional economy (-2% to -10%).

Despite legitimate concerns about the region’s housing costs and transportation woes, Silicon Valley remains arguably the nation’s strongest magnet for STEM talent.  Let us know what you think, and tells us what you believe the region should do to sustain its STEM advantage.

John Melville is Co-CEO of Collaborative Economics.