A Mixed Methods Study on Evaluations of Virginia's STEM-Focused Governor's Schools

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Virginia Tech


Significant emphasis is currently placed on STEM education as a vehicle to encourage American youth to enter science, technology, engineering, and math-related professions. Gifted students are a natural resource of future innovators for these fields; however gifted programs are largely overlooked for program support. Since 1973, the Virginia Department of Education has sponsored a unique model of regional magnet programs for gifted and talented students called the Virginia Governor's Schools. These schools provide accelerated and differentiated curricula, often in the STEM subjects. As evaluation is a strong component to achieve more funding to meet the scientific and technological demands of these programs, the researcher explored the evaluation reports of five STEM-focused Virginia Governor's Schools. The purpose of the study was to collect consequential evidence of an untested rubric instrument used for the evaluations. A descriptive analysis of the instrument's criteria ratings, a content analysis of evaluation reports, and a thematic analysis of eight evaluator interviews were conducted. Results were triangulated to reveal that the five Governor's Schools met (n= 80.0%) or exceeded (n= 13.87%) evaluation metric standards, and shared similar strengths and areas of needed improvement. Triangulated evidence supported the argument that the instrument addresses gifted students as independent learners, faculty as education innovators, and promotes STEM-capable citizens through scientific research and civic service. Information collected during the study was intended to assist evaluation designers in determining rubric efficacy and provide recommendations for planned future revisions.



STEM Education, Gifted Education, Evaluation, Virginia Governor's Schools