Unconventional Middle School Program Significantly Increases Science Achievement






Laurie King, Director of Communications and Learning Systems

Maricopa County Education Service Agency


(602) 689-0581


Unconventional Middle School Program Significantly Increases Science Achievement

Report confirms that role models, relationships, and real-world projects increase science learning

(PHOENIX, AZ) – A pilot STEM classroom model is boosting student achievement and addressing the need for more highly skilled STEM professionals in Arizona. 

Engineering corporations and technology-dependent industries face a future shortage of highly skilled employees and college universities are unable to meet the increased demand. Without research-based interventions, this urgent need will not be fulfilled. For decades, researchers in science and engineering education have been working toward increasing student persistence and likelihood to choose STEM careers. Efforts to prepare students in math and science have continued to fall short and contribute to the greater national STEM profession crisis. 

A report released in February confirms that Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA), led by the Maricopa County School Superintendent, has developed a model program that takes a big step toward solving this issue.

Engineering STEM Identity (ESI) is aimed at increasing the number of students that pursue and persist in higher-level math and science courses by developing their identity as successful math and science scholars. ESI redesigns the typical math and science school experience in order to develop this identity. The re-design includes the implementation of a rigorous hands-on curriculum, inclusion of real-world STEM professionals, student-led challenge projects, and peer to peer videoconference panel discussions.

Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson commented, "I've been a teacher for the past fifteen years and have never seen a program with as much potential for increasing STEM learning and engagement as Engineering STEM Identity. I am very proud and excited to be offering this program to the students and teachers of Maricopa County."

Middle school students that participated in ESI for two years made statistically significant gains in science as compared to the achievement of similar students that did not participate in the program.

More information about ESI and the white paper describing the effectiveness of the program can be found at mcesa.info/esi