Teaching matters: differences in student achievement among STEM, health science, and general population students in eleventh grade


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Research indicates that the current system of education suppresses student creativity and divergent thinking, which may contribute to the nation's dropout and academic achievement problems. Yet, current legislation, with its focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health science, is challenging teachers to implement creative methods of education. As a result, various models have been applied to specific high school programs. The purpose of this study was to compare the achievement of 11th grade students enrolled in the general population to those who are enrolled in two interest-based school-within-school academies. The three models were: (a) Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM); (b) Health Science; and (c) general population. STEM and Health Science rely heavily on project based learning. All 11th grade students enrolled in public schools in the state of Texas took the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests for mathematics, science, social studies, and English language arts test as graduation requirements and have earned an accumulated GPA. Archived 11th grade data from a south Texas school district during the 2012-2013 school year were used. There were 57 cases from STEM, 60 cases from Health Science, and 60 cases randomly selected from 274 in the general population. Quantitative analyses provided descriptive, frequency, ANOVA, and Tukey post hoc statistical results. Results showed that participants in STEM and Health Science programs outperformed general population students on all TAKS tests. In science, Health Science participants outperformed general population and STEM students. There were no statistically significant differences in GPA among participants in the general population, STEM, and Health Science. While mathematics and science are key areas for STEM and Health Science, performance in social studies and English language arts was included to see if there was a relationship among groups in other content areas. High performance in an area such as mathematics and/or science has an impact in other content areas. Cross-curricular instruction is a natural part of project based learning. If State and Federal funds are going to be allocated towards instructional models to raise student achievement, school districts must put systems in place to develop teaching approaches that are creative, project based, and relevant to today's students.
Educational Leadership, Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Development