Study On The Implementation Of Emerging Technology Trends In Model STEM Schools In Franklin County, OH


Young boys working on computer with teacherTechnology has supported and influenced the way we teach and learn, including making it easier to create instructional materials, and enabling the emergence of innovative pedagogies. This report reviews the major current trends in emerging technology that impact educational change. The New Media Consortium and Networking (NMC) Horizon Report K12 (2017) is the longest project in exploring emerging technology trends in education. Key themes emerged, among which,  the most frequent topics of discussion in the past six years include deeper learning approaches, blended learning designs, authentic learning experiences, personalized learning, and others. Specifically, the 2017 report focuses on the discussions of two long-term trends that are driving technology adoption in K-12 education: advancing cultures of innovation, and deep learning approaches. Instead of looking at trending technology tools, the NMC report emphasizes how technology transforms learning and how it may relate to educational design.

Therefore, we shift the focus from a specific perspective of technology to a general overview of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Franklin County.  Instead of teaching the four subjects separately, STEM education integrates these fields into one cohesive program to prepare students for future innovative practices. The mission of a STEM school is to equip students with enough knowledge and skills to engage with the world and solve problems, as opposed to teaching new technologies. LaForce, Noble, King, Holt, and Centurt’s (2014) study discovered, six core elements of the educational goals in STEM school: (a) problem-based learning, (b) rigorous learning, (c) school community and belonging, (d) career technology and life skills, (e) personalization of learning, and (f) external community. Because STEM education is a technology-infused program, we believe reviewing two STEM schools in Franklin County will give us insightful information on the technology-enhanced curriculum that embodies emerging trends in technology adoption.

STEM Education in Franklin County

In order to examine the current development and situation of STEM education in Franklin County, we reviewed two STEM schools, the Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy and Metro Early College High School. eSTEM was established in 2010, and is one of the fourteen schools in the Reynoldsburg school district in Columbus, Ohio. According to Debbie Howard (n.d.), Chief Innovation Officer of EDWorks, eSTEM is  Metro is a semi-public high school located on the campus of The Ohio State University. The school falls under the Educational Council, which is a confederation of the sixteen public school districts in Franklin County. The school was established in 2006  as the first STEM high school in Ohio, serving as a model school in Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN). Its mission is “turning college aspirations into reality” (Metro, n.d.)

Demographics of the schools

Student Profiles

The student profile for Metro is as follows: half the school’s population is described as White. Following largest groups were identified as Black, Asian/pacific islander. Although not racial, 26.9% of the students were identified as economically disadvantaged. All groups and both genders have almost perfect attendance rate.

eSTEM similarly has a little over 50% population of White students. Other major student populations are described as Black and Multiracial. eSTEM has an economically disadvantaged student group, as well, which equals to the 38.4% of the entire school. Similar to Metro, attendance rate is close to perfect with over 95% rate.

Lastly, when it comes to the chronic absenteeism rates for both schools, Metro has a rate of 3.2% while eSTEM has a rate of 10.4%.

Teacher Profiles

Both institutions are in possession of qualified teachers degree-wise. In Metro, based on the teacher evaluations of the institution, 51.4% of the faculty were categorized as Accomplished, 40% as Skilled, 2.9% as Developing, and 5.7% were not evaluated. All teacher’s have a bachelor’s degree, and more than half of them have a master’s degree (57.3%). eSTEM also does an amazing job recruiting qualified teachers, as 52% of the faculty are deemed Accomplished while another 44% is described as Skilled. Only 4% of them are categorized as Developing. While eSTEM’s faculty all have a bachelor’s degree, their rate of master’s degree ownership is 90.3%, which is more than Metro’s, and also the whole Reynoldsburg district (64.7%).

Report Cards and Achievement Gaps

Both high schools provided more equitable and accessible STEM education for high school students in Franklin County, and initially seemed to fulfill an important need for access. The summary of report card scores status for the schools over the years 2012-2017 arecan be summarized as follows:

Table 1: The summary of report card scores for the schools over the years 2012-2017 areas.
School Achievement Gap Closing Progress Graduation Rate Preparedness for Success
eSTEM Fluctuating Declining Steady Steady Steady
Metro ECHS Declining Declining Increasing Steady Steady

While certain achievement markers for the schools seem outstanding, they are not doing well regarding gap closing, meeting state goals, and the rate of students passing the state tests.

The State of Ohio’s report cards for 2013-2015, show that eSTEMtem initially received very high grades for its gap closing, and achievement. Starting Iin 2015, the school began to exhibit some difficulties in both categories, and scores have continued to declinedrop to a D for achievement and F for gap closing in 2015-2016. It is concerning that pilot efforts to increase quality of STEM education are starting to lag.

In the following section we will look into the curriculum requirements of each STEM school, and the structure of their each STEM program.

Implementation of Emerging Technology Trends in STEM Schools

Taking a similar path to a technology-integrated innovation education, the two schools share some common essential goals of STEM education.

Innovative Curriculum Structure

Metro Early High School

The students who enroll in Metro Early High Schools, which consists of math, English, science, social studies, technology, foreign languages, fine arts, wellness, a business internship, and a capstone research project. Upon completion of their core requirements, the students enroll in “the Mastery Learning” program  (Metro, n.d.). At the end of their work, students give gateway presentations to demonstrate that they are able to utilize the six  “Metro habits of heart and mind,” which are the 21st-century skills a global citizen should possess (Metro, n.d.)

Students choose early college experiences based on what they want to pursue in college or as a career, from the areas of design, bodies (biology and related fields), growth (agriculture and related fields), digital arts, mosaic (arts & humanities), and energy. Seniors can take a full college-level course load of 12 credits once they complete their ECEs. Half of the seniors at Metro are currently doing this through dual enrollment (Han, Lynch, Ross & House, 2014).

eSTEM Academy

Similar to Metro, eSTEM also offers their students several paths they can follow after they complete their core requirements, which are their energy, digital, and design pathways. eSTEM’s core curriculum is 21 credits of math, science, language arts, social studies, health/PE, and elective courses (eSTEM, n.d.).

Culture of Innovation through Collaborative Community Partnership

Metro and eSTEM widely establish partnerships with the K-12 community, industry, and higher education. It is essential for STEM schools to develop effective partnerships that foster students’ authentic learning experience. For example, the partnership with The Ohio State University allows students at Metro to enroll in college after meeting Metro’s requirements. The professors at Ohio State also support students by co-teaching courses in Metro’s learning centers. Collaborations can also be a collective endeavor with additional funding support. Battelle, a multinational company, “devotes about 80 percent of its charitable funding to STEM-education initiatives” (North, 2011, p.9). The schools collaborate with institutions such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Honda of Americas Research and Development, The Ohio State University, The PAST Foundation, TS Tech, and Columbus State Community College, among several others.

College and Career Readiness

Metro and eSTEM have developed various pathways in preparing students for college and careers. Metro provides opportunities for students to complete college work that reduces the cost and time to complete a college degree. Students can take college courses after completing 18 credit hours of high school study, and experience the “rigor of collegiate work” (Ark, 2015). The collaboration with Ohio State is a key incentive for parents and students to apply to Metro.

eSTEM incorporates massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) into its curriculum. Students can also learn higher education content (i.e. statistics, physics, and computer science courses) from the online higher education provider Udacity. Additionally, students have career training opportunities during their final two years that serve as a great opportunity for them to expand their career choices while still in high school.

Mastery-Based Learning and Deep Learning Approaches

Mastery-based learning focuses on the student’s ability to solve problems.  The curriculum in Metro strongly connects to real-world problems and students engage and interact with authentic tasks to experience the role of world citizens. For example, students work with food science researchers on bread products and explore how earthworms affect ragweed seed disperse with science experts (North, 2011).

At eSTEM, students learn through inquiry-based instruction, or learning through finding, instead of through memorizing answers. Similarly to Metro, eSTEM uses mastery-based performance standards to measure students’ progress. The three pathways (design, digital, and energy) play important roles in engaging students in the real world projects. For example, students in the design pathway can apply cutting-edge manufacturing techniques in design processes to solve problems, while students in the digital pathway participate in software development and can earn IT certificates (Scott, 2016).

Financial challenges in preparing students to success

Despite the fact the both schools have developed an innovative curriculum and reflected the current emerging technology trends, it’s still need to be noted that these two schools did not achieve same performance in preparing students to success.

According to the school report cards (2015-2016), Metro received an A for the Prepared for success category, while eSTEM only received a C grade. In the same year Metro invested $4386 in class instruction and eSTEM invested only $3958 ($428 difference). During this year, the cost per pupil in Metro was $7188 and in eStem it was $5756 ($1432 difference). That means that eSTEM invested $5756-$3958=$1798 in out-of-classroom expenses while Metro invested $7188-$4386=$2802 in out-of-classroom expenses. Metro invests more in out-of-classroom activities and it is possible that some of the money is allocated to prepare students for success.

By further examining the financial information of both schools in the historical report cards, we can see that in the years 2012-2017 the average cost per pupil in Metro was $7524. The average cost for classroom instruction in Metro was $4103.On the other hand, in eStem through 2013-2017, the average cost per pupil was $6852 and the average cost for classroom instruction in eStem was $4710.

While eSTEM invested slightly more in the classroom instruction, there is a significant difference in the spending per pupil amount, where Metro invested $1781 more per pupil.

One reason that helps Metro to allocate more funds on students may be the Metro’s “Straight A” Grant for FY14-15. The purpose of the grant was to shift remediation practices from teacher-oriented to blended learning environments with the hope of creating individualized learning and cost deduction. However, although the grant initiated in 2014 with the hopes to continue for four years, Metro Schools were only able to benefit from it during the 2014-2015 fiscal years. The reason for the discontinuation is not mentioned.


eSTEM and Metro Early College High School have adopted emerging technological and instructional trends consistent with the NMC report, and they meet the requirements for model STEM education. Franklin County schools would benefit from opportunities to expand or replicate these programs in other locations and districts.  eSTEM and Metro could assist other schools through mentorship projects, faculty professional development opportunities, interschool peer-to-peer collaborative projects, and countywide STEM festivals. The recent trend of declining performance grades for eSTEM and Metro ECHS could be the result of a lack of funds to support their endeavors. To resolve this, grant agencies and educational funding sources are encouraged to allocate more funds in their grant pools for STEM-related projects.