A new report suggests that efforts to create STEM programs for low-income and minority students in Buffalo, N.Y., and three Denver-area school districts failed to live up to their ambition and promise.
Schools that planned to expand access to strong math, science, engineering, and technology courses wound up reducing offerings and cutting entire programs within three years. That’s despite financial investments and enthusiasm from school district leaders and the community, the report says. At the same time, students in the STEM schools had negligible gains on state standardized achievement tests in science and math. In some cases, proficiency rates even dropped.
For the study, a group of researchers led by Lois Weis of the University of Buffalo and Margaret Eisenhart at the University of Colorado Boulder spent three years following eight schools—four comprehensive schools with new STEM programs and four nonselective schools that self-identified as STEM schools. All but one had student populations where more than 70 percent of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch and were using STEM as part of school improvement efforts.
The report highlights the opportunities available or not, in some cases to students who were in the top 20 percent of their class in science and math at the end of 9th grade with an interest in STEM professions.
A version of this article appeared in the September 30, 2015 edition of Education Week as STEM Schools