Studies of STEM-Focused Schools Yield Mixed Results
Posted by Education Week on June 16, 2014
Does STEM work?
Several recent studies question the efficacy of STEM-focused schools, writes Holly Yettick for Education Week. A report in The Journal of Educational Research indicated that students in STEM schools in North Carolina were significantly more likely to take core, advanced, and vocational-technical STEM courses than peers in other schools; however, in Florida, STEM students took vocational-technical STEM courses at higher rates, but took core and advanced STEM courses at the same rate as peers in non-STEM schools. Students in STEM-focused schools in both Florida and North Carolina were no more likely to perform well on state math exams between 2006 and 2008. Another report in the same journal looked specifically at STEM-focused elementary and middle schools, finding results mixed. Transferring to STEM magnets didn’t change achievement trajectories; students performed at the same levels as peers who transferred to non-STEM schools in the same district. Still another study examined math, biology, chemistry, and physics course-taking and exam results for 70,000 students attending both selective and nonselective public STEM high schools in New York City. The STEM schools appeared at first glance to have higher scores and STEM course-taking rates than other high schools, but once researchers accounted for demographics and prior test scores, most STEM-school advantages disappeared, suggesting they were disproportionately attracting higher-achieving students interested in STEM.
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