STEM Labs increase standardized test scores

Pitsco STEM labs and higher scores go hand-in-hand in Volusia County, FL, schools VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL (July 30, 2015) – According to a study by Curriculum Specialist Daniel Cox and Dr. Kristin Pierce, both of Volusia County (FL) School District, students enrolled in Pitsco STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) labs between 2008 and 2013 scored significantly higher in science, math, and reading than their peers who did not take STEM courses.
The study, which looked at data accumulated during the five-year span, found that students who took STEM courses with Pitsco labs had a mean score of 320.12 in science on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), compared to 313.98 among those not enrolled in STEM courses.
Additionally, those same Pitsco STEM students scored higher in reading and math as well – and the longer they were in the STEM labs, the greater the difference in scores. Students who took the labs for all three semesters they were offered scored approximately 30 points higher in science, 18 points higher in math, and 20 points higher in reading than the non-STEM students. While the study showed that students in all STEM classes received a bump in scores, students who took the Pitsco STEM courses had the largest bump in scores.
"We were able to show pretty convincingly that the FCAT scores for students in the lab were progressively higher depending on the amount of time they were in there," said James Tager, deputy superintendent for instructional services in Volusia County. "That was our selling point."
Due in part to the study's findings, the school district upgraded all 14 of its Pitsco middle school labs in the summer of 2014. All Volusia County middle school labs, which were originally installed in the late 1990s, now have new or upgraded curricula and equipment as well as a new management system.
In addition to higher test scores, the labs also bring relevancy to the classroom, as the standards correlations can attest. Creekside Middle School lab instructor David Van Slyke ran a correlation report for his Pitsco STEM lab that showed that more than 68% of the seventh- and eighth-grade math standards and more than 70% of the science standards were covered.
"The standards correlation has been phenomenal," said Creekside Middle School Principal John Cash. "You want this to have real-world application and for the students to see this again. The fact that we know the kids will be tested on those standards that are incorporated into the Modules is wonderful."
The STEM era
VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL – “It was the future. I think that, like I did, the county saw it was inevitable. Things were changing in other districts, other parts of the country, and it was going to change here.”
Teacher Gary Blair is looking out over his bustling Pitsco STEM lab at Galaxy Middle School in Deltona, Florida. Blair, a 32-year teaching veteran with 17 years in a Pitsco Modules lab, is recalling the transition that took place in Florida’s School District of Volusia County in the late 1990s.
Back then, schools across the country were moving from old-school industrial arts programs (shop class) to technology programs that zeroed in on job skills and technological literacy. In the case of Volusia County, that meant state-of-the-art Pitsco Modules labs for Blair and several other middle school teachers.
Nearly two decades have passed, and Blair’s words are suddenly new again. A new national movement has taken hold, and Volusia County is moving from the technology era into the STEM era. In large part because of this, Volusia County updated all 14 of their Pitsco middle school labs during the summer of 2014. This entailed new computers, a few additional Module titles, new equipment, and a management system upgrade. Though individual schools had received updates from time to time, this was the first total revamp since the labs came to the district.
MODULES SPAN TWO ERAS Every middle school in the School District of Volusia County has a Modules lab. Their legacy is in the technology program, and many of the classes are still officially titled Technology. But more and more, administrators, teachers, and students have been unofficially calling the classes “STEM.”
The STEM program in Volusia County got underway half a decade ago with the creation of several high school academies – notably engineering and robotics academies. Since then it has grown through a partnership with nearby Bethune-Cookman University, STEM days (see related article), and robotics clubs. Though the Pitsco middle school labs preceded the high school academies in time, the district saw in the labs a great tool to channel interested students into STEM academies and eventual careers.
It might seem odd that an already-existing technology lab would form the core for the new STEM program at the middle school level. After all, technology is only one of the pillars of STEM. But the real meaning of STEM is integration, and it was clear to many in the district that all along, the Pitsco labs were about more than just technology. Teacher David Van Slyke of Creekside Middle School is one such advocate. He keeps a sparkling, efficient lab with posters and support materials covering the room. He is clearly a man who wants to ensure every inch of his lab is working for his students. And he wants others to know that it is working.
“I slammed my correlation report down in front of my principal and superintendent and said, ‘Take a look at this. This is what we are doing. We are not a tech lab. We are not a shop. This is what we are doing.’ And they said, ‘Oh. Wow.’”
With more than 68% of the seventh- and eighth-grade math standards and more than 70% of the science standards covered by his lab, Van Slyke has the numbers to back him up. His principal, John Cash, has been impressed.
“The standards correlation has been phenomenal,” Cash says. “You want this to have real-world application and for the students to see this again. The fact that we know the kids will be tested on those standards that are incorporated into the Modules is wonderful.”
The Modules might have always been a step ahead, but with the update, there is no doubt for Cash that the school has a very modern, high-functioning STEM lab. “We are there. We are current,” he says. Pitsco Education is the leading provider of age-appropriate, student-centered K-12 STEM learning solutions. Our standards-based curriculum, products, equipment, and materials promote student success through positive and challenging learning experiences, and our hands-on solutions teach core concepts and career skills in science, technology, engineering, and math.