Which Students are STEM-Focused High Schools Serving?

A new paper suggests it’s not those who are the most disadvantaged:

In recent years, policy makers, researchers, and educators have focused on the preparation of individuals in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. One popular policy lever is STEM-focused high schools. The purpose of this study is to identify which student populations have access to STEM secondary schools. By comparing STEM high schools to neighborhood schools and districts, this study finds access to STEM high schools to be unevenly distributed. Among the key findings is that STEM high schools tend to have fewer students from disadvantaged groups than their district averages. Furthermore, I find that African Americans are disproportionately represented in admissions-only STEM high schools. As funding for more STEM high schools is allocated and infused into the system, it is important to identify locations and groups that may benefit and currently lack access to STEM high schools. Decision makers would be wise to place future STEM high schools in areas with high percentages of Latino students who may benefit from these unique programs.

The author is M. Felicity Rogers-Chapman of Claremont Graduate University, and the paper is in the upcoming issue of Education and Urban Society.

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