STEM High Schools


Means, B., Confrey, J., House, A., & Bhanot, R. (2008). STEM High Schools. Specialized Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Secondary Schools in the U.S. SRI International, Menlo Park, CA.


The concept of secondary schools offering specialized curricula in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is not new. Its roots can be traced to a set of elite schools that evolved out of trade schools established around the turn of the century (Hanford, 1997). The now-illustrious Stuyvesant High School, for example, was established in 1904 in New York City as a boys’ trade school. During the 1930s the school shifted to an emphasis on academic science and mathematics and began using a competitive examination to select the most able from among the many students eager to attend. By the mid-1990s, Stuyvesant application and acceptance numbers cited by Hanford (1997) suggest that the school was accepting just 6 percent of applicants, making it more selective than Harvard University. The institution of advanced curricula and admission based primarily on test performance were emulated by two other elite STEM schools within New York City (Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School) as well as by similar schools in cities such as Baltimore and Chicago. Thus, a set of what Hanford (1997) described as “private schools, essentially, within the public sector” emerged to produce students well-prepared for further STEM education and careers. Still, specialized STEM high schools remained small in number and outside mainstream secondary education (Hanford, 1997).

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