What defines a STEM School?

We identified 8 Elements common to STEM schools across the country. Here, you can see the Elements that make up STEM schools, as well as examples of how they are enacted by S3 schools.

S3 Infographic

What do STEM schools do?

The Elements are made up of components that represent the core of what STEM schools do every day to accomplish their goals. Explore all 78 in our infographic of STEM school components.


How do STEM schools work?

The STEM School Roadmap is an interactive visual that demonstrates how the components work together to achieve the goals of STEM schools. On this page, explore the Roadmap and read about how it was developed and how you can use it.

What happens in STEM school classrooms?

What happens in STEM school classrooms?

We visited 134 classrooms in our study schools to understand what instruction looks like in STEM schools. These findings share the different strategies and classroom behaviors we observed.

Where is the S.T.E.M. in STEM?

Where is the S.T.E.M. in STEM?

In our work with STEM school leaders and stakeholders, it has become clear that they may define "STEM" as more than science, technology, engineering, and math. Read about how these disciplines fit into the S3 framework.

How are inclusive STEM schools alike?

How are inclusive STEM schools alike?

And how do they differ? We interviewed school leaders at all 20 participating schools to find out what the most essential parts of their schools are. Explore visual representations of each school’s model here.


The Importance of STEM Schools

In recent years, many states and schools have embraced a STEM focus. However, there is much debate and uncertainty about what a STEM school is. This study seeks to develop a clear, comprehensive understanding of inclusive STEM schools across the nation, as well as how the various strategies and methods employed by these schools can relate to real student outcomes.

This study is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Our Philosophy

The fundamental goal of all Outlier projects is to provide schools and policy makers with useful, timely information to continually improve. In S3, we work hard to maintain open communication and work in collaboration with our schools. In addition to sharing our broader findings, we provide schools with detailed, school-specific findings from each questionnaire administration. Schools have also worked closely with us to articulate their models, and we encourage feedback on our work throughout the research study.

Study Questions
Study Participants

S3 is a mixed-methods study. We use quantitative and qualitative strategies to answer our core research questions.

To understand the essential components of schools, we use a detailed interview and coding process.

To measure the implementation of essential components, we use teacher, student, and school leader questionnaires. These questionnaires were developed in earlier STEM school research, and have been refined in S3 to precisely and reliably measure how schools implement strategies and practices.

We get a richer portrait of essential component implementation through our qualitative data collection. In 2014 and 2015, we will visit several of our schools to see their essential components in action. We will observe activities and classes, talk in depth to teachers and students, and generally learn what it means to be a part of an inclusive STEM high school.

To understand student outcomes, we work with schools each year to collect student-level achievement data (student GPA, test scores, and other data when available). We link questionnaire responses to school-provided data to understand how different essential components and patterns of implementation may be related to student achievement.

In addition, we are working on a post-graduate questionnaire for a sample of students who have graduated from participating schools. These questionnaires will help us understand how post-grads reflect on their STEM experience and feel that it has helped prepare them for life after high school.