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Inclusive STEM Schools: Early Promise in Texas and Unanswered Questions


Mathematics and science-- long the acknowledged domain of the academically gifted --lies at the crux of the knowledge economy, now and for the foreseeable future. For policymakers and reformers, however, endorsing a small, educated elite with strong academic training in STEM while a large proportion of the population remains ill-fitted to the new economy is untenable (National Research Council, 2005; PCAST, 2010). Inclusive STEM schools are predicated on the dual premises that math and science competencies can be developed; and that students from traditionally underrepresented subpopulations need access to opportunities to develop these competencies to become full participants in areas of economic growth and prosperity. Inclusive STEM schools do not screen prospective students on the basis of strong prior academic achievement. Rather, they build in supports to engage students in STEM and provide them with opportunities to master STEM content and related skills.
This paper presents early results on the effects of a large-scale inclusive STEM school initiative- T-STEM in Texas-and highlights factors that facilitate and constrain the ability of T-STEM academies to realize their goals. This paper also identifies key research needs to better understand the effects of inclusive STEM schools going forward.