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Leadership (10)

Tony Habit Ed.D., NC New Schools Project


The Honorable Burley Mitchell, Womble, Carlyle, Sandrige and Rice PLLC

Board Chair

Larry Chavis, Lumbee Guaranty Bank

Board Member

Jeff Corbett, Progress Energy

Board Member

Bob Greczyn, Emeritus, BCBSNC

Board Member

Cynthia Marshall, AT&T

Board Member

Shirley Prince, NC Association of Principals and Assistant Principals

Board Member

Scott Ralls, NC Community College System

Board Member

Norris Tolson, NC Biotechnology Center

Board Member

Leslie Winner, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Board Member


Data indicate that NC's innovative STEM high schools are succeeding as an effective turnaround strategy

April 8, 2011

March 16, 2011 Todd Silberman
(919) 277-3760

Data indicate that North Carolina’s innovative STEM high schools are succeeding as an effective turnaround strategy

With their inaugural classes closing in on graduation later this spring, nine small high schools that opened in 2007 with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math are helping raise student achievement on campuses once plagued by low performance.

Three years of data provide promising evidence that the schools are succeeding in reducing dropout rates and boosting test scores by engaging students in learning designed to develop the kinds of skills considered key for success in college and career: critical thinking, problem solving and communication. The schools last year had a combined dropout rate of only 1.5 percent – less than half North Carolina’s overall rate of 3.75 percent – and the percentage of students passing End-of-Course exams increased twice as much as the state as a whole.

“The state’s new STEM schools are on the leading edge of a shift in education in North Carolina and nationwide that raises the importance of mastering math and science skills not just for the few, but for the many,” said Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, a public-private school development organization supporting the STEM schools and other innovative models across the state.

North Carolina is now poised to be a leader in STEM education. Under the state’s $400 million federal Race to the Top grant, NCNSP is developing networks of STEM schools oriented to four distinct career themes: health and life sciences, energy and sustainability, biotechnology and agriscience, and aerospace. Those schools will serve every region in the state, as a critical investment for our state’s economic development, and as a doorway to promising futures for students whose options too often have been limited by geography and poverty. The schools also benefit from support provided by a number of other partners, including the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, The Science House at N.C. State University, Core-Plus Mathematics, and the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM.

2009-10 performance indicators

Indicator All NC high schools NC STEM high schools
EOC composite pass gain 8.8 percentage points 19.4 percentage points
Algebra II pass gain 12.4 percentage points 27.2 percentage points
Biology pass gain 9.7 percentage points 21.9 percentage points
English pass gain 8.3 percentage points 15.5 percentage points
Percentage taking Algebra II 17.9 percent of 9-12 enrollment 30.6 percent
Dropout rate 3.75 percent 1.5 percent

The original nine STEM schools graduating their first class this year were opened on existing high school campuses that a judge had threatened to close because of far-reaching academic failure. All of the schools have offered new opportunity to students with limited means and resources. All of the schools have above average levels of poverty.

“The students that we have get off the same buses as the regular high school students,” said Glenwood Mitchell, principal of Bertie STEM High School, and a 40-year veteran educator in the rural county. “Students will live up to the expectations you set for them. These students will study twice as much, and their teachers will stay two to three hours longer.”

“We have a culture of high expectations,” Mitchell said. “That’s the bottom line.”

North Carolina’s STEM high schools:

Anson County Anson New Tech High School

Bertie County Bertie STEM High School

Duplin County Duplin Early College High School
(opened as James Kenan School of Engineering)

Durham County Hillside New Tech High School
Southern School of Engineering

Forsyth County Jacket Integrated Academy at Carver High School

Northampton County Northampton West/STEM High School

Warren County Warren New Tech High School

Wayne County Wayne School of Engineering

Weldon City Weldon STEM High School


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