For the past two decades, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education has become an increasingly fundamental component of the country’s K-12 education systems. The demands of our global economy have led to increasing pressure on educational institutions to prepare young people with the skills needed to become future innovators and leaders.
Broward County Public Schools in Florida received the first of three consecutive grants from the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) to develop innovative STEM magnet programs across grades K-12. The district entered into a partnership with Metis to serve as the external evaluator for this and the subsequent two federal magnet grants.
Promoting Diversity through STEM Magnet Programs
Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) has a long history of providing innovative magnet programs as a means of promoting diversity and maintaining equitable student enrollments. Most of the district’s more than 70 magnet programs were developed using funding from the federal magnet program. These programs are designed to reduce racial isolation among the district’s African American and Latinx students.
STEM became a focus of magnet programming in the district in 2010 when BCPS applied for and received an MSAP grant, entitled Growing STEM. The three-year grant supported the creation of six new whole-school magnet programs. These new middle school programs provide unique opportunities for students to engage in hands-on learning in science and math through the lens of engineering and technology.
Throughout the three-year grant, Metis evaluators collected and reviewed data from document reviews, conducting stakeholder interviews, school visits, and surveys, and analyzing outcome data. Throughout the process, Metis worked closely with the district to offer real-time feedback so that the evaluation helped inform program design and implementation.
Based on recommendations from the evaluation, BCPS implemented a broad range of recruitment strategies both within and beyond the school communities. These strategies aimed to attract a diverse group of students in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, and academic background. This approach ultimately resulted in each of the schools being successful in promoting diversity and demand for the programs.
Successes Sprout New Magnet STEM Programs in Broward
Building on the successes of the Growing STEM middle school initiative, BCPS applied to the US Department of Education for a second magnet grant in 2016, with Metis as its evaluation partner. The successful Sprouting STEM grant was used to create six new elementary STEM magnet programs to create K-8 STEM pathways throughout the county.
In 2018, with support from Metis, Broward received additional federal magnet funding to support the completion of the K-12 STEM pathways. Metis is currently studying the effectiveness of this new grant, which seeks to develop STEM career academies and personalized learning in six middle and high schools.
Over the past 10 years, Metis’s partnership with BCPS has yielded positive changes in STEM and magnet programming:
- Helped the district use data to identify and remedy inequities in STEM elective course enrollments
- Enhanced communication and outreach strategies have helped support BCPS in developing a unique curriculum and programs that promote diversity and equity across K-12
- Provided grant writing services that yielded 10 consecutive years of federal and local investment in BCPS magnet programs to reduce racial and ethnic isolation and inequities