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Modeling Successful STEM High Schools in the United States: An Ecology Framework

Abstract
This study aims to generate a conceptual framework for specialized Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) schools. To do so, we focused on literature and found specialized STEM schools have existed for over 100 years and recently expanded nationwide. The current perception for these schools can be described as unique environments including advanced curriculum, expert teachers, and opportunities for internships and immersion. Researchers have categorized these schools with three types: (a) selective STEM schools, (b) inclusive STEM schools, and (c) schools with STEM-focused career and technical education (CTE).Finding from the studies exploring college and career readiness of students attending these schools revealed students from specialized STEM schools are performing slightly better on high-stake mathematics and science tests in comparison with students in traditional schools. Studies also showed students from specialized STEM schools are more interested in STEM, more willing to attend classes, more likely to pass state tests, and more likely to earn college degrees. After synthesizing the literature, we created a conceptual framework of effective learning environments for specialized STEM schools using an ecology metaphor. This framework included actors (students, teachers, community leaders, and role models), contextual factors (learning environments,curriculum, instructional strategies, advanced coursework, and technology use), and actions (teaching, learning,immersion, communication, partnering, mentoring, support, and assessment).
Key words: STEM, STEM education, Specialized STEM schools, Learning environments.


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