Models of Exemplar ISHSs: What Are ISHSs and How Do They Work?
STEM-focused schools are viewed as promising for closing the STEM opportunity-to-learn and interest gap, as well as bolstering U.S. economic conditions. These schools have captured the imaginations of policymakers and business/industry leaders as an under-explored resource for improving STEM education and reaching more diverse students. However, despite the enthusiasm, there are very few systematic studies published on STEM high schools; the research base is remarkably thin (Carnegie Institute, 2009; NRC, 2011).
STEM high schools are categorized either as “selective” or “inclusive”. Selective schools have a long history and serve students who are identified as gifted/talented in STEM. Inclusive STEM high schools (ISHSs) are more recent. They have a mission to provide a strong STEM education to students under-represented in STEM and increase their entry and participation in STEM majors, jobs and careers. These schools serve a range of “regular” students. Several states have built them into state STEM plans. In other places, they are used as a reform or turnaround model. However, there is no common definition, nor umbrella organization for ISHSs, nor is there systematic published research on their models or effectiveness.
This session focuses on results from two current NSF-funded studies that are “companion” studies on ISHSs. One study intentionally focuses on cases of exemplar ISHSs across 7 states, aiming to build a theory of action to explain high functioning ISHSs. The other study is a quantitative comparative study of ISHSs and comprehensive schools that follows students longitudinally to ascertain the impact of attending an ISHS. These projects use different approaches to answer different sets of research questions, but help paint an increasingly vivid picture of the potential of the inclusive STEM school approach to building opportunities for students underrepresented in STEM as they close achievement gaps.