Study to examine Ohio education innovations

February 22, 2011

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Ohio State University will use a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the implementation, spread and sustainability of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics schools in Ohio.

Ohio emerged as a high-profile STEM innovator, following the January 2008 launch of the Ohio STEM Learning Network. State and private partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have committed $50 million to the network to better prepare Ohio students for jobs in the 21st-century economy.

"They've created this network with an expectation that what is learned and what's established in these schools will spread and grow statewide," said Jeanne Century, director of science education, research and evaluation at UChicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. Collaborating with Century on the study is Kathryn Sullivan, director of Ohio State University's Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy.

Although the study will focus on Ohio, organizers are operating or preparing to launch similar STEM networks in several other states, including North Carolina, Texas and New York.

The Ohio STEM Learning Network has established STEM hubs for students of diverse socio-economic backgrounds in Akron, central Ohio, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton, which were built around a platform school. "It's a very intentional attempt to facilitate networking across the state. So whether it's effective, and how it works, that's part of what we're studying," Century said.

Studying how STEM networks produce gains

Sullivan became impressed with the importance of STEM networking while attending a meeting in Washington, D.C., a year after the 2007 publication of Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. She noticed that individuals from all over the country who were implementing large-scale educational innovations had initially underestimated how much time they would need to spend networking with other organizers.

"They were saying, 'Now I find how central, how pivotal, the orchestration of a network of people is.' They clearly all had dismissed the challenge of the networks in the design stage," Sullivan said.

The meeting prompted Sullivan to conduct a preliminary study that identified some of the important components of effective networking needed to establish Metro Early College High School in Columbus, Ohio. She had been part of the network that launched the Metro School in her former position as director of Columbus' Center for Science and Industry. "Metro then morphed and grew. It was the root or the concept that became the OSLN," she said.

Sullivan expanded the Metro networking study with another one, completed earlier this year, which examined the Ohio STEM Learning Network more broadly. Century, meanwhile, had begun working with the network's Cleveland hub last July, performing an evaluation that predates the NSF grant.

Applying STEM in the workforce

The Cleveland hub's MC2STEM High School maintains close ties with local businesses and science organizations. The school's freshman campus, for example, is on the grounds of the Great Lakes Science Center, while the sophomore campus is located at GE Lighting Nela Park.

"They require all of their 11th-graders to do STEM internships with businesses, so they're not just science and math and technology-focused schools," Century said. "They're schools that are really trying to do something different, moving toward real integration and application of these disciplines in the workforce."

The UChicago-Ohio State University study will build upon previous work that shows how improving education and adopting innovations is more complicated than simply identifying best practices and exporting them to target schools. "We've concluded that sustainability is just implementation over time. So we're focusing on how you measure implementation at any given moment," Century said.

The Ohio STEM Learning Network's practices and innovations include taking an integrated, project-based approach to STEM education. This approach involves teaching critical thinking through STEM and applying it to the humanities and other disciplines as well as science.

Educators from MC2 and from the Central Ohio Hub already have shared this approach in workshops with K-8 educators in Cleveland. "We'll be checking those schools out as well, because part of what we're trying to understand is how these things spread. How do they get translated locally?" Century said.

The Ohio STEM Learning Network schools subscribe to a common set of shared principles, but how those principles get enacted varies from school to school. "Our work will be not just understanding the differences, but helping others understand that when you have an innovation based on principles, it plays out in a lot of different ways," Century said.

University of Chicago

Related Mathematics Articles from Brightsurf:

A new method for boosting the learning of mathematics
How can mathematics learning in primary school be facilitated? UNIGE has developed an intervention to promote the learning of math in school.

Could mathematics help to better treat cancer?
Impaired information processing may prevent cells from perceiving their environment correctly; they then start acting in an uncontrolled way and this can lead to the development of cancer.

People can see beauty in complex mathematics, study shows
Ordinary people see beauty in complex mathematical arguments in the same way they can appreciate a beautiful landscape painting or a piano sonata.

Improving geothermal HVAC systems with mathematics
Sustainable heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, such as those that harness low-enthalpy geothermal energy, are needed to reduce collective energy use and mitigate the continued effects of a warming climate.

How the power of mathematics can help assess lung function
Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a new computational way of analyzing X-ray images of lungs, which could herald a breakthrough in the diagnosis and assessment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases.

Mathematics pushes innovation in 4-D printing
New mathematical results will provide a potential breakthrough in the design and the fabrication of the next generation of morphable materials.

More democracy through mathematics
For democratic elections to be fair, voting districts must have similar sizes.

How to color a lizard: From biology to mathematics
Skin color patterns in animals arise from microscopic interactions among colored cells that obey equations discovered by Alan Turing.

US educators awarded for exemplary teaching in mathematics
Janet Heine Barnett, Caren Diefenderfer, and Tevian Dray were named the 2017 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award winners by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) for their teaching effectiveness and influence beyond their institutions.

Authors of year's best books in mathematics honored
Prizes for the year's best books in mathematics were awarded to Ian Stewart and Tim Chartier by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) on Jan.

Read More: Mathematics News and Mathematics Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to