The increasing amount of technical-related careers has placed a high demand on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools, but how effective is this specialized approach?
In an article in the Journal of Educational Research, Michael Hansen, a researcher at the American Institutes for Research, found that students in NC STEM schools were more likely to take STEM courses compared to students in other types of schools. However, students in Florida took STEM courses at a higher rate but were about as likely as students in other types of schools to take STEM courses.
In regards to performance, “Results from 8th grade science tests in North Carolina likewise showed no association between attending a STEM school and student achievement on the exam.”
In another article in Economics of Education Review, Matthew Wiswall and his co-authors “examined math, biology, chemistry, and physics course-taking and exam results for more than 70,000 students attending both selective and nonselective public STEM high schools in New York City.” Based on higher scores and STEM course-taking rates, the NYC STEM schools seemed to be doing better. However, after accounting for demographics and previous test scores, the data suggested that the “schools were disproportionately attracting higher-achieving students who were interested in STEM.”
Nevertheless, for three groups (females, minorities and blacks) that are typically underrepresented in STEM courses, results were more positive. The authors commented, “While the literature might suggest that STEMs are characterized by a ‘chilly environment,’ where minorities and females can feel unwelcomed, our results suggest that, in contrast, these schools are doing something right for them.”