processes and such skills as the ability to solve problems and work effectively in teams, as well as the kinds of knowledge and skills measured on state assessments and college admission tests. Participation in formal STEM courses in middle and high school and other kinds of STEM education—such as through museums, after-school clubs or programs, internship and research experiences—could be used as indicators of students’ engagement.
Some states have data that allow the identification of schools in which students in the aggregate appear to perform particularly well or particularly poorly on achievement tests.24 Such analyses, however, provide little information about the instructional practices and conditions in individual schools, so identifying criteria in this way does not help schools determine how to achieve desired outcomes or to decide which aspects of an apparently successful school to replicate. Researchers at the National Center for Scaling Up Effective Schools are working to link data on high- and low-performing schools with survey data on instructional practices and organizational conditions, but their research was only just beginning at the time of this report.
AREAS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ON CRITERIA RELATED TO OUTCOMES: Additional research and data are needed on organizational and instructional practices to complement the growing body of longitudinal data on student outcomes, as well as additional research that measures outcomes other than test scores.
It is also possible to think about effective STEM schools in terms of different school types or programs that focus on STEM. Such schools are often viewed as the best route to achieve desired STEM outcomes. Indeed, it is conceivable that a specific school type or program, on average, produces stronger student outcomes than other models. Such schools and programs are important because they can serve as exemplars for districts across the nation that are attempting to elevate the quality of STEM education. The schools of interest are typically characterized by specific attention to the STEM disciplines, often for a targeted population, such as highly talented students or students from underserved groups. This specific attention to STEM frequently manifests itself in a rigorous curriculum that deepens STEM learning over time, more instructional time devoted to STEM, more resources available to teach STEM, and teachers who are more prepared to teach in the STEM disciplines.
The committee identified three broad categories of STEM-focused schools that have the potential to meet the overarching goals for U.S. STEM education that we have described: selective STEM schools, inclusive STEM schools, and schools with STEM-focused career and technical education (CTE). Although these categories do not represent the full universe of STEM-focused schools, each category includes many different models of schools, and most of these models can be adapted for any level of the education system (elementary, middle, secondary). Each type of school has strengths and weaknesses and poses a unique set of challenges associated with implementation.