Back to School with STEM

Memories of summer vacation and Labor Day are fading away.  For many families, that means it’s back-to-school season. When it’s time to grab the book bag and kick off another school year, students have more options than ever for getting an education – from charter schools to cyber academies.

STEM Initiatives

Over the past several years, the U.S. has seen a push in educating students in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM.) This push is partly a result of President Obama’s Educate to Innovate and Change the Equation initiatives, which both launched in 2010 and focus on the importance of STEM education for today’s youth. The goal of the Educate to Innovate initiative is to move U.S. students to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next 10 years, by increasing federal investment in STEM and preparing 100,000 new STEM teachers by 2021. As part of the Educate to Innovate campaign, Obama’s Change the Equation initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the U.S.

STEM Schools

As STEM’s popularity continues to surge here in the states, so does the popularity of STEM schools. Most STEM schools are high schools, but there are some middle schools out there as well.

According to, there are three types of STEM programs:

  • STEM specialty school – the school’s entire focus is on STEM. Each student participates in a curriculum based around science, technology, engineering and math.
  • STEM program within a larger school – some schools offer STEM ‘academies’ within their institution which allow students to study STEM at a more in-depth level.
  • Residential STEM programs – residential programs are intense, with students living on campus and attending a STEM school.

Students enrolled in these types of STEM-education programs will get a very hands-on learning experience. Most STEM schools feature project-based curriculum which focuses on experiments, observation, research, and use of technology in everyday studies. The STEM learning environment also tends to be very collaborative, with students working in groups to exchange ideas and challenge one another.

So what’s the ultimate goal of these schools and their students? To create more STEM savvy high school graduates, who can help better position the U.S. as a global leader in technology and innovation. And how do parents know which STEM school is the right choice for their son or daughter? The key is to do plenty of research, visit potential schools, and ask questions about the school’s culture, teaching staff, curriculum, and professional development opportunities.

There are many STEM schools throughout the country. Here is just a sampling:

High Technology High School
Located in Lincroft, New Jersey, High Technology High School is currently ranked the #1 STEM high school in the country. With a focus on engineering curriculum, High offers courses in civil engineering and digital electronics, among many others. Students can also earn college credit for core course work.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology
Located in Alexandria, Virginia, TJ was established in 1985 and currently enrolls about 1,800 students in grades 9-12. The school is currently ranked #5 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top STEM high schools.

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
NCSSM is located in Durham, North Carolina. It offers a residential STEM program for students entering their junior or senior year of high school. The campus features residence halls, dining facilities and dozens of student clubs and athletic opportunities.

Anne Arundel County STEM Magnet Programs
Anne Arundel County public schools in Maryland offer a STEM Magnet program for both middle school and high school students. The “school with a school” program offers specialized STEM-based curriculum for students who are deemed eligible for enrollment.

Want to see if a top-ranked STEM school is located near you? Check out U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 rankings.