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IES Grant

Title: Urban STEM Elementary (USE) Partnership: Measuring Benchmarks to Success
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: LaForce, Melanie Awardee: University of Chicago
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (8/1/2016-7/31/2018) Award Amount: $398,072
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H160049

Co-Principal Investigator: Curvey-Johnson, Rukiya; Mahon, Jessica

Partner Institutions: Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools

Purpose: During the 2013–2014 academic year, Chicago Public Schools established 11 K–8 STEM Initiative schools and 1 additional school (for a total of 12) in the 2015-2016 school year. Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) initiated a formal partnership to investigate this new initiative. The purpose of this partnership project, called the Urban STEM Education Alliance (USE Alliance), was to (1) develop STEM school benchmarks for these schools, (2) understand the implementation of CPS's K–8 STEM Initiative school model, and (3) explore the association between implementation of the model and student outcomes. CPS's charge to support the STEM Initiative schools necessitates that they understand what is occurring at the schools.

Partnership Activities: The goals of the USE Alliance were to collect, analyze, and interpret implementation and outcome data on the 12 K–8 STEM Initiative schools with a mixed-methods design. The team gathered teacher questionnaire data, secondary school-level achievement data, focus group data, school leader self-assessment data, and observational data. Researchers at the University of Chicago worked with CPS staff to build their capacity for interpreting data and results.

Setting: The study took place in 12 K–8 STEM Initiative schools in Chicago Public Schools.

Population/Sample: The population included approximately 330 K–8 teachers in 12 STEM Initiative Schools, as well as STEM specialists and school leaders at each of the 12 schools. The final survey, interview, and focus group samples were approximately 224 teachers, 13 STEM specialists, 4 school leaders, and 2 Network Chiefs. The schools are located on the south and west sides of Chicago, where nearly 100 percent of students are African American, and over 95 percent are considered low-income. Student homeless rates range across schools from 4 percent to 22 percent, with an average of 15 percent.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data analysis of interviews and focus groups was conducted using grounded theory to inform status of STEM strategy implementation. Quantitative analysis included confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and regression analysis to examine predictors of implementation in teacher survey data. Meanwhile, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and analysis of variance (ANOVA) were also used to examine implementation differences between grades. Descriptive and correlational analysis was conducted on school-level achievement data.

Key Outcomes: The USE Alliance developed timely feedback on implementation and preliminary outcome findings for the 12 participating STEM Initiative schools. Key findings showed that all STEM schools struggled with implementation in the first year of participation. While several schools made strides in their implementation data, STEM schools did not outperform neighboring comparison schools in terms of school-level achievement. However, CPS partners report that initial data post-project completion shows stronger outcomes for STEM Initiative elementary schools in the 2018-2019 school year. Survey data indicated that strong perceptions of leadership support (e.g., higher frequencies of working with external partners) consistently predicted higher levels of implementing STEM strategies such as Problem-Based Learning. Survey data also indicated that teachers who taught higher grades showed significantly higher level of technology integration than those who taught lower grades. CPS STEM staff and Outlier continue to meet to consider additional research opportunities. Findings have been disseminated to each of the 12 schools, CPS audiences, and the Chicago Mayor's Office. The USE Alliance continues to seek additional opportunities for dissemination.