Report Outlines Success of Iowa STEM Initiative

July 30. 2014 - Iowa’s STEM Scale-Up initiative, established in 2011 to elevate interest and achievement in STEM education while preparing Iowa’s future workforce, is paying dividends, according to a new report.

“Every one of the STEM programs rolled out to educators across Iowa this past year has met or exceeded its objective of inspiring greater interest in STEM among students,” said Gov. Terry Branstad in a news release.

During the first year of the Scale-Up Initiative in the 2013-14 school year, PLTW Gateway, Project Lead The Way’s program for middle school students, was one of just nine state-endorsed STEM programs that Iowa schools could implement and for which they could receive funding. As a result, 35 PLTW Gateway programs were in place in Iowa middle schools during the first year of the Iowa STEM Scale-Up.

(For the 2014-15 school year, PLTW Engineering was selected as a Scale-Up program. Thirty-one PLTW Gateway programs and 24 PLTW Engineering programs are now funded through the initiative.)

“We have seen from a national level as well as a state-of-Iowa level that Project Lead The Way students are outperforming their peers, and they are staying in that STEM pipeline,” says Camille Schroeder, manager of community outreach at Iowa State University and PLTW Affiliate Director at ISU. “They are more interested in taking upper-level math and science classes, and they are going into the STEM fields – both from a community college standpoint as well as a four-year college standpoint – so in terms of meeting outcomes and objectives, that’s really positive.”

Schools that implemented PLTW Gateway through the Scale-Up Program report the following positive outcomes:

More 8th graders are considering pursuing PLTW courses at the high school level.
PLTW programs have sparked a positive interest in the STEM fields for some students who, otherwise, may not have gotten STEM exposure. The 3D design and Robotics units were very interesting to many of the students.
“This program has really helped ignite interest in those students that fail in every other class. I have seen struggling students really become class leaders during PLTW classes!”

Results from a separate study underscore these outcomes. Findings from “A Study of the Impact of Project Lead The Way on Achievement Outcomes in Iowa” by David Rethwisch, Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa, indicate that “PLTW increases mathematics or science scores on the Iowa Test of Educational Development by 5 points after controlling for selection bias.”

Other key findings from the first-year STEM Scale-Up report include:

Students participating in STEM Scale-Up programs reported more interest in STEM topics and STEM careers afterward. 
A small gender gap between male and female participation in Scale-Up has been narrowed from Year 1 to Year 2 of programming.
Participation of minority students matches their share of Iowa’s school-age population.
Awareness of the acronym STEM among adults has increased 58 percent between 2012 and 2013.
Ninety-eight percent of surveyed adults agree that advancements in STEM will give more opportunities to the next generation.

For additional details, read the full Iowa STEM Monitoring Project 2013-2014 Summary Report.