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A Study of the Impact of Project Lead The Way on Achievement Outcomes in Iowa

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Assessment and Evaluation of K-12 Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.107.1 - 25.107.21



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Paper Authors

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David G. Rethwisch University of Iowa

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Melissa Chapman Haynes Professional Data Analysts


Soko S. Starobin Iowa State University

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Soko Starobin is Assistant Professor of Higher Education Program and Associate Director of the Office of Community College Research and Policy at Iowa State University. Her research focuses on gender issues in STEM fields among community college students, specifically traditionally under-represented student populations.

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Frankie Santos Laanan Iowa State University

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Frankie Santos Laanan is an associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. Currently, he is Interim Director of the Center for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education (CESMEE). His research focuses on education pathways for diverse students in STEM fields.

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Tom Schenk Jr. Northwestern University

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A Study of the Impact of Project Lead The Way on Achievement Outcomes in IowaAbstractIowa has implemented the secondary engineering curriculum Project Lead The Way (PLTW) inan effort to create a more seamless transition for students from secondary school into science,technology, engineering, and mathematics post-secondary programs. PLTW has beenimplemented in all fifty states; however, there has been sparse research to-date that hasrigorously measured the impact of PLTW on mathematics and science achievement. We usedIowa’s statewide longitudinal data system to follow multiple cohorts of PLTW participants andnonparticipants from 8th grade into secondary education. We derived a comparable treatment andcontrol group by matching students based on their propensity to enter PLTW, permitting astronger interpretation of the program’s impact than prior studies. The findings indicate PLTWparticipants are more likely to be white, male, and perform in the upper quartile in mathematicsand science prior to PLTW enrollment. Further, we found statistically significant evidence thatPLTW increases mathematics or science scores on the Iowa Test of Educational Development by5 points after controlling for selection bias. The 5 point increase in mathematics scorecorresponds to roughly a half of a grade level. The effect size (f2) for mathematics was 0.15 and0.05 for science—a moderate and small effect size, respectively. Further studies will also need toproperly account for pre-existing ability in mathematics and science when determiningachievement outcomes to ensure results are not being driven by pre-existing ability. This studyhas implications for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers regarding the comprehensiveevaluation design and the critical role that PLTW can play to increase the participation, bothgenerally and within non-traditional groups, in postsecondary STEM education in the U.S. 1

Rethwisch, D. G., & Chapman Haynes, M., & Starobin, S. S., & Laanan, F. S., & Schenk, T. (2012, June), A Study of the Impact of Project Lead The Way on Achievement Outcomes in Iowa Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20867

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