Becoming a STEM-focused school district: Administrators’ roles and experiences

Jeanna R Wieselmann, Gillian H. Roehrig, Elizabeth A. Ring-Whalen, Thomas Meagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) schools and districts continue to emerge, and while some research highlights critical components to be included in STEM schools, there is a need to learn more about the process of becoming a STEM school or district. In this study, we investigated a rural United States school district’s development and expansion of its STEM education focus, which started in the years leading up to the district’s first STEM school opening in 2012. We addressed the research question: How is a district-wide STEM education vision developed, enacted, and sustained by various administrative stakeholders? We interviewed 11 participants, all of whom had some level of administrative responsibility related to the district’s STEM mission, coded interviews based on the critical components of STEM schools, and used narrative inquiry methods to describe the district’s STEM transition from these administrators’ perspectives. Our analysis revealed that several key critical components were central to this district’s STEM mission. These components included elements related to leadership, reform-based instructional strategies, and teachers’ professional learning. By focusing on different elements at different times and prioritizing several key components throughout, this district was able to achieve its goal of providing STEM instruction to all of the elementary and middle school students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number805
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
With the foundation of flexibility and responsiveness associated with CC9 and CC12, as well as the need for all teachers to become experts in CC2 to enact the STEM mission, district leaders continually emphasized teachers’ professional learning. This was financially possible because of the low level of curriculum investment needed with the view of STEM as a pedagogy, as well as through funding from CC5. Business Partnerships. Professional development and STEM certification opportunities were provided to all of the teachers and staff, even if they did not have the primary responsibility for teaching STEM disciplines. For example, art, music, and physical education teachers, as well as school principals, were STEM-certified, illustrating the shared responsibility for enacting STEM education. This commitment to CC7. Well-Prepared STEM Teachers and Professionalized Teaching Staff was reemphasized each time a new school adopted a STEM focus, both through the provision of professional development opportunities and the positioning of John in the newest STEM school to provide on-site support. The relationship between John and the well-prepared faulty allowed for collaboration in designing, implementing, and evaluating STEM-focused lessons and units based on the existing district resources and materials.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Distributed leadership
  • STEM education
  • STEM school
  • School administration


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