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Mason Research on STEM High Schools Is Cited in President’s 2016 Budget

February 6, 2015

By Pam McKeta


Erin Peters-Burton

This week, George Mason University education professor Erin Peters-Burton discovered that her research received a shout out from the White House, with budget numbers attached.

Peters-Burton, a division director in the College of Education and Human Development, is part of a team of researchers who have joined forces to work on a four-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of STEM-focused high schools.

The team’s work was cited in President Obama’s 2016 budget, which includes proposed legislation for $125 million to fund a U.S. Department of Education competitive grant program to help communities create next-generation high schools that are laboratories for cutting-edge STEM teaching and learning.

The budget notes the equity gap in STEM education, with a quarter of high schools with high percentages of African American and Latino students not even offering Algebra II and a third failing to offer any chemistry courses.

The proposal for Next Generation High Schools directly references the findings of Peters-Burton and her colleagues:

“[A] June 2014 report from researchers at George Washington University, George Mason University, and SRI International found that students attending Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High School in San Diego, Cal., an early college high school that provides a rigorous STEM-focused curriculum to concentrations of minority and first-generation college-going students, outperformed its district and state peers on the SAT and ACT.

The curriculum and physical space at High Tech High School in San Diego emphasizes collaborative, project-based learning with a STEM focus. Photo courtesy of DesignShare.com.

The curriculum and physical space at High Tech High School in San Diego emphasizes collaborative, project-based learning with a STEM focus. Photo courtesy of DesignShare.com.

“At Manor New Technology High School in Texas, another inclusive STEM-focused school, the same researchers found college enrollment rates that were significantly above the national average, with 74 percent of the school’s 2010 graduating class enrolling in an institution of higher education compared with a 2010 average enrollment rate of 41 percent.”

Peters-Burton and fellow researchers from George Washington University are convening a forum Feb. 26-27, 2015, that will feature high school principals from exemplar STEM schools, as well as representatives from federal agencies and national organizations interested in STEM education. The forum, called Inclusive STEM High School Leadership Forum, features keynote speaker Kumar Garg, senior advisor to the deputy director at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The research is an example of George Mason’s particular strengths in education research within the areas of special education, STEM education, and teacher professional development.

For more information about the cited research, please see the OSPrI web site.