In this project, investigators are laying the foundation for a rigorous quasi-experiment to test the effects of attending such a school using longitudinal student records, surveys, and interviews. By documenting survey response rates, student location rates, and rates for successful matching of student administrative and survey data, this project is demonstrating that it is possible to collect data that would enable a large-scale study to be launched with the necessary instruments and experience in hand.
Concerns about both economic competitiveness and educational equity emphasize the need for the United States to broaden and diversify the pipeline of students prepared and motivated to pursue STEM college majors. An emerging strategy for addressing this need is large-scale implementation of inclusive STEM high schools. In this exploratory project, investigators from SRI International and George Washington University are laying the foundation for a rigorous quasi-experiment to test the effects of attending such a school using longitudinal student records, surveys, and interviews. The project's operational definition for an inclusive STEM high school (ISHS) is a school, school within a school, or school program that accepts students primarily on the basis of interest rather than aptitude or prior achievement and gives them the mathematics and science preparation they need to succeed in a STEM college major. ISHSs enroll students from groups underrepresented in STEM professions through an application process that does not require high test scores before high school entry. In contrast to selective STEM schools that admit gifted and talented students on the basis of entrance examination scores and thus select for perceived STEM aptitude, ISHSs have the more ambitious goal of developing STEM expertise.
To establish the feasibility of a large, multi-state investigation of the effectiveness of inclusive STEM schools at scale, researchers are:
- Developing a tentative taxonomy of ISHSs and exploring implications of ISHS heterogeneity for the research design;
- Recruiting three school partners representing different ISHS approaches;
- Using state data to identify a comparison school (without a particular focus on STEM) for each ISHS school partner and recruiting comparison school partners;
- Developing School Leader and three student surveys (fall 9th-grade, spring 12th-grade, and spring post-graduation);
- Collaborating with partner schools in design of data collection procedures, recruiting materials, and incentives;
- Piloting the School Leader Survey and two student surveys (9th-grade fall survey and 12th-grade spring survey) in six partner schools;
- Identifying and recruiting a larger sample of ISHSs and matched comparison schools for Year 2 data collection;
- Administering surveys in 40 or more high schools;
- Locating spring 2012 graduates of the three ISHS partner schools and pilot testing the post-graduation student survey with these students; and
- Engaging an Advisory Board who will provide methodological expertise and advice.
Ultimately, by documenting survey response rates, student location rates, and rates for successful matching of student administrative and survey data, this feasibility work is demonstrating that it is possible to collect the kind of data that would enable a large-scale study to be launched with the necessary instruments and experience in hand. As evidenced by the recent call from the President's Council of Advisors in Science and Technology for 1,000 new STEM schools and the National Research Council's report entitled "Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" that highlights various STEM schools, the proposed research is highly relevant to current policy initiatives and debates. Moreover, the research has the potential to promote diversity in the STEM pipeline by influencing policymakers in states and districts that have yet to implement ISHSs at scale.