STEM STAR Offers Effective Model for Technology Integration in Rural Schools

Last Updated: September 26, 2012

This article appeared in the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

A just-released report indicates the RSCT STEM STAR program offers a highly effective model for teacher training and technology integration in rural schools. The model is especially promising because many rural schools struggle to provide their students with rich technology access and learning opportunities.

The program provides professional development to a group of Student STEM Leaders (SSLs) and teachers in each school. It is based on a model developed by the nonprofit GenerationYes organization. That model shows strong evidence that academic achievement occurs “when well-prepared students collaborate, support, and share their knowledge with their teachers and peers.”

The STEM STAR (Students and Teachers Achieving Reform) program was implemented in six rural high schools, five in North Carolina and one in Louisiana. STEM STAR was initially submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Investment in Innovation (i3) program, where it was highly rated but not funded. This smaller version of the program was implemented and evaluated with funds provided by the Rural Trust, as a partner in the i3 Foundation Registry.

In the summer of 2011, twelve SSLs and all 9th grade science teachers in each school participated in a four-day workshop provided by Generation YES staff. In the workshop, students and teachers worked together to learn a variety of technology tools and applications and explore high quality online learning resources in math and science. Students also received training in how to mentor other 9th grade students in their schools. Each participant also received an iPAD. And, SSLs collaborated with STEM practitioners to improve achievement.

During the following school year, all 9th grade students in all six schools were assigned two substantial STEM STAR science projects aligned to state science standards. Both projects covered major science concepts and made extensive use of technology. Ninth grade students who successfully completed both projects received a national TechYES technology proficiency certification.

The program incorporated five strategies: 1) focus on rural schools; 2) professional development; 3) project based inquiry; 4) professional learning communities; and, 5) Student Science Leaders (SSLs).


STEM STAR is built on the idea that students will learn technology skills and work with teachers and other students to integrate technology in both learning and teaching. 

The evaluation report found that all six sites infused technology with the support of the SSLs. Students used a wide variety of technology tools in their projects; most of those tools were new to them as well as new to their teachers.

Participants reported feeling especially well prepared to help students complete their projects, to evaluate the finished projects, and to use the iPads.

You can read the Executive Summary here and the STEM STAR first year report here

Read more:

For more information on Tech Yes certification:

For more information on Generation Yes:

Read more from the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.