This project will investigate whether six urban middle schools are implementing highly effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs based on factors identified through relevant research and national reports on what constitutes exemplary practices in 21st century-focused schools.
This is a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) proposal responsive to Program Solicitation NSF 15-555. The CAREER program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. This project will investigate whether six urban middle schools are implementing highly effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs based on factors identified through relevant research and national reports on what constitutes exemplary practices in 21st century-focused schools. The project will make this determination through the use of a STEM level of readiness rubric developed through a previous award that will be further revised through this study. The rubric will document the participating schools' level of readiness at the principal, teacher, and student levels using 15 criteria that include a combination of essential supports, core elements, attributes, and characteristics about STEM through: (1) school leadership as the driver of change in education; (2) professional capacity among teachers and staff in all academic areas; (3) student-centered learning climate reflective of high-quality teaching and learning practices; and (4) investment of resources (e.g. staffing, time, space, materials and supplies, partnerships) that support exemplary school-based programs.
The project will use surveys, focus groups, and face-to-face interviews to collect data from 18 principals; classroom observations and a survey to collect data from 380 teachers, and a survey to collect data from 3700 students. These data collections, augmented by other intermittent research activities, will provide insights about extant programs in participating schools regarding effective school leadership, state-of-the art teaching and learning practices, and the impact on students' interest, motivation, and self-efficacy about STEM education. The primary outcome from this project will be a field-tested jointly refined STEM level of readiness rubric based on input from principals, teachers, and students with guidance from the project's advisory board and the Center for Research in Educational Policy at the University of Memphis. The rubric will be instrumental in informing district-level education stakeholders and university-partner decision-makers' choices about where and when to invest resources to further support the development of higher quality STEM programs and schools. It will also be useful in identifying ways to improve students' overall perceptions about future courses of study and careers and the development of professional development modules for teacher training. Beyond these key school district-level outcomes, results will be used to enhance teacher preparation efforts through further refinement of methods courses and the STEM Teacher Leadership Certificate Program at the University.