This research study in response to Challenge 1 of the NSF's Transforming STEM Learning (TSL) program is entitled The Study of Re-designed High Schools for Transformed STEM Learning in the North Carolina New Schools Project Network (NCNSP). The study is focused on a formative and summative evaluation of a sample of ten redesigned science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) high schools in North Carolina. The study will be conducted by researchers at the Research Triangle Institute, Virginia Tech, University of North Carolina - Greensboro SERVE Center, and the Urban Institute. The goal of the study is to learn how creating innovative learning environments for STEM education can help motivate students to become active learners with the capacity to think critically and solve real-world problems.
The study is designed as a 4-year, longitudinal research project with two main purposes: (1) assess student learning over time, using extant data, survey data, and performance assessments, contrasted with student performance in a matched set of comparison high schools using traditional curricula; and (2) describe school-level policies and instructional practices that schools employ to promote student learning through a series of case studies involving site visits and teacher logs. An experienced, multidisciplinary team of experts in STEM content, evaluation methods, program design, and school-based research will conduct this project. The project is based on rigorous research methods and relies on carefully collected longitudinal student extant and survey data, innovative performance assessments, and intensive case study data based on teacher logs and site visits. A diverse Advisory Board will provide additional strategic project development, content knowledge, and evaluation expertise to the research team. A comprehensive Data Management Plan will address issues such as methods of data collection, infrastructure for data management, and data related policies (e.g., access, sharing, protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, etc.).
The project will inform the state of knowledge in the field of STEM education, such as information on school reform efforts, use of technology and inquiry-based learning, supportive networks for schools/teachers, and effective use of partnerships with business and postsecondary institutions. The evaluation of the NCNSP schools will also provide insight into improving the conditions for underserved and disadvantaged North Carolina populations, such as minority, low income, first-time college-going and rural students. Beyond providing this valuable evaluation information, the project will have the capacity to inform the work of NCNSP, especially with respect to its plans for developing new innovative STEM models. This project will also provide NSF and other national and state agencies with a set of potentially transformative practices to ultimately improve STEM education in the United States.