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    The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 1



  • The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 1

    About The Case Study

    This case study is one of a series of case studies produced for

    The STEM Schools Project. The purpose of the STEM

    Schools Project is to document promising practices in high

    schools and middle schools that are providing students a

    STEM-rich experience, drawing upon a high quality

    implementation of Project Lead The Way's Pathway To

    Engineering and/or Biomedical Sciences programs.

    The Meeder Consulting Group conducted the site visits, wrote

    the case studies and final report, and is managing all aspects

    of The STEM Schools Project. The project is funded through

    generous support from the Kern Family Foundation based in

    Waukesha, Wisconsin (

    From information collected during each of the nine site visits,

    the authors prepared detailed, reader-friendly reports

    describing the schools accomplishments, approach to STEM

    learning, and school improvement strategies. The case

    studies organize material into three overarching themes

    related to how schools use PLTW to spur STEM-related

    learning emerged:

    Create an Exceptional PLTW Implementation, Develop a School-wide STEM Culture, and Implement Related School Improvement


    In addition to the case studies, a Final Report will be released

    that synthesizes key findings from all the case studies and

    places them in the larger context of STEM education reform.

    For more information about the STEM Schools Project, visit

  • The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 2

    Part i. introduction and overview Summary The leadership team and instructional faculty at Wheeling High School (WHS) in

    Wheeling, Illinois, strive to equip all students, regardless of their education level or

    area of study, with a solid foundation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering

    and Mathematics) knowledge. To support this STEMfor-All approach, learning

    activities at WHS are driven by the school-wide goal of preparing students to

    think critically and solve complex problems, adapt to new technologies, and

    communicate effectively to a variety of audiences all skills required to succeed in

    a global 21st century economy. Using an inquiry-based approach to instruction,

    teachers help students learn how to solve problems through investigation and

    how to purposefully link their learning across multiple disciplines. They teach and

    reinforce STEM-related skills, such as problem solving, teamwork, technology, and

    communication, in a broader context in all classes.

    School Profile Established in 1964, Wheeling High School (WHS) is a STEM-focused,

    comprehensive public high school located in Wheeling, Illinois. Wheeling is a

    suburban community located 28 miles northwest of downtown Chicago and has

    approximately 40,000 residents. WHS offers a full academic curriculum to students

    from the Township High School District 214 (SD 214), and as of the 20112012

    school year, approximately 1,900 students attended grades nine through 12 at

    WHS. The leadership team includes a principal, two assistant principals, and two

    associate principals. There are also two deans of students, five division heads, and

    140 instructors at WHS.

    SD 214 oversees curriculum approval and instruction across high schools in the

    district. The school district, a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award1

    recipient, serves 12,236 secondary students and includes five other high schools in

    addition to WHS.

    The student population at WHS is ethnically diverse. Approximately 40 percent of

    students are white, 49 percent are Hispanic, 2.5 percent are black, six percent are

    Asian, and 2.5 percent are American Indian or Pacific Islander. Approximately 38

    percent of the students are identified as economically disadvantaged, and 16

    percent of the students receive special education services.

    Synopsis of Project Lead the Way Implementation In the summer of 2004, with the support of Bradley University and the Kern Family

    Foundation, the first career technical education (CTE) instructor from Wheeling

  • The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 3

    High School received Project Lead the Way (PLTW) training for the Pathway To

    Engineering (PTE) program. That fall, WHS introduced its first PLTW course,

    Introduction to Engineering Design (IED).

    With rapidly increasing enrollment, PLTW is one of WHSs most successful

    programs. In all four courses in the PLTW sequence, WHS students are offered the

    unique blend of an engineering education and real-world application.

    With the arrival of Principal Dr. Lazaro Lopez in 2007, the WHS leadership and

    faculty began exploring how to create a STEM culture that would intentionally

    impact all students.

    This push toward STEM began in 2007 after Dr. Lopez conducted interviews with

    each teacher and building administrator in the school, trying to identify the

    schools strengths. After observing the schools strong math and technology

    programs, school leadership determined the school should be built around a

    STEM philosophy.

    In the fall of 2010, the school leadership officially unveiled its philosophy of STEM

    instruction and adopted the moniker of a STEM school. This coincided with WHS

    being identified as a national STEM partner school by the National Consortium for

    Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology

    (NCSSSMST). NCSSSMST has the goal of fostering, supporting, and advancing

    the efforts of specialized schools whose primary purpose is to attract and

    academically prepare students for leadership in mathematics, science, and

    technology and currently partners with only 100 schools across the nation. This

    recognition as an Institutional Member validated the work at WHS and encouraged

    the leadership to continue in their efforts to ensure the STEM philosophy reaches

    all students.

    Also in 2010, WHS introduced a school-wide inquiry model framework to drive

    instruction and teach students how to approach a problem and work through it.

    Internally created by a WHS leadership team of teachers and administrators, this

    model was named QUEST.

    According to the leadership team, students trained in STEM literacy and skills are

    better equipped to succeed in the real world. Dr. Lopez further noted, Every

    student has a future. Our overarching philosophy is helping each student identify

    an interest and reach his or her full potential, prepared for success in the 21st


    The table below provides enrollment information for PLTW at Wheeling High


  • The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 4

    Project Lead the Way Enrollment

    PLTW Courses Offered Number of Students Enrolled

    2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012

    Introduction to

    Engineering Design 33 91 67 66

    Computer Integrated

    Manufacturing 11 18 32 19

    Civil Engineering and

    Architecture 0 20 25 21

    Principles of Engineering 2 14 17 17

    Aerospace Engineering 3 0 0 0

    Source: Wheeling High School, May 2012.

    The STEM Continuum Model The working theory of the STEM Schools Project is that there is a natural

    continuum of integration and connection of STEM education occurring in schools

    that use Project Lead the Ways Gateway to Technology (middle schools) or PTE

    and/or Biomedical Sciences (BMS) programs (high schools). In some schools, PTE

    and BMS are offered as sequences of courses that offer an excellent learning

    experience to students, but the courses stand alone and do not connect to other

    courses that fall under the STEM umbrella. In some schools, teacherson a case-

    by-case basis and through individual initiativeinculcate some of the project-

    based and inquiry-based approaches of PLTW courses into the math and science

    courses that they teach. Alternatively, they may informally collaborate with

    colleagues in other content areas to create a smattering of integrated or linked

    curriculum units. Further along the continuum are schools that are actively and

    intentionally creating integrated and connected learning between STEM courses,

    and in some cases with other courses such as English Language Arts and the

    Social Sciences. In these schools, teachers are actively and consistently

    collaborating with the support of administrative team members.

  • The STEM Schools Project: Wheeling High School Page | 5

    The STEM continuum includes the following groupings of strategies:

    Create an Exceptional PLTW Implementation, Develop a School-wide STEM Culture, and Implement Related School Improvement Strategies.

    The remainder of this case study is organized around these groupings, although

    not every strategy in the continuum will be observed in every case study. If the

    strategy was not observed during the site visit or subsequent interviews, this fact

    is noted but should not be construed to reflect negatively on the school that is


    Part ii. Strategies

    1. create an exceptional PLTW imple