conduct research and work with mentors. Because the school is located in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina, there are numerous universities and research facilities close by, and the students benefit from these resources both during the school year and through summer internships.

Of the school’s graduates, 63 percent return to live and work in North Carolina after college, Roberts added. The state leaders who established the school through legislation had envisioned that it would not only serve as a model for educational improvement, but also support the state’s economic goals by providing a steady supply of highly qualified workers. From the state’s perspective, establishing a specialized school focused on science and mathematics that would be independent of the school system has paid off.

Graduates of Selective Specialized Schools: Research Findings

Looking beyond a single school, Robert Tai and Rena Subotnik described preliminary findings from a study they are conducting of graduates from selective public high schools of science, mathematics, or technology (Subotnik, Tai, and Almarode, 2011). The study is designed to assess the value these schools add by developing and maintaining the supply of students who pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields. The researchers have surveyed students 4-6 years after graduation and combined the results with other data available about the cohort from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS)3 to develop answers to two questions: Are these graduates more likely to enter STEM programs in college and STEM careers than other students? Which educational models used in their schools seem to yield the most students who pursue STEM-related study and careers?

First, Tai noted, there is no clear definition of this type of school. For their study, they identified four subtypes among the selective schools that specialize in STEM education: residential programs; comprehensive programs that have a special focus on STEM; specialized STEM programs that operate within a larger school; and half-day programs, in which students commute between a specialized program and their home schools. Finding that these schools offer very different experiences for students, Tai and Subotnik collected data from two of each of these four types. Although there is variation among the subtypes, some common features include advanced STEM coursework, expert teachers, like-minded peers who are interested in STEM, and opportunities for independent research. Tai and Subotnik’s primary outcome measure was whether or not the


3For more information about NELS, see [June 2011].

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