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ERIC Number: ED562981
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 13
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 65
"STEMming" the Swell of Absenteeism in Urban Middle Grade Schools: Impacts of a Summer Robotics Program
Mac Iver, Martha Abele; Mac Iver, Douglas J.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
Attendance is probably the most fundamental behavioral indicator of student engagement with school. Though many students fall off-track to success for the first time in ninth grade, poor attendance patterns often begin increasing in middle school and become worse in high school. Missing school during the secondary grades can often be traced to low levels of motivation. As Eccles (2008) has so aptly summarized the crux of the motivation issue, it often boils down to two main questions in students' minds about what happens in school: "Can I do the task?" And "Do I want to do the task?" (Eccles & Midgely, 1989; Meece, 2003). Recent discussions of noncognitive factors affecting academic performance have emphasized the importance of developing an academic mindset to influence academic behaviors such as attendance and exerting effort in class and homework assignments (Farrington et al., 2013). The process of helping students to internalize these beliefs can occur not only in the core academic classroom, but also in elective activities like robotics that build a sense of competence and value in academic pursuits. Given the salience of attendance as a predictor of student achievement outcomes, additional research on effective means of increasing attendance for at-risk students is particularly important. This paper focuses on the following research question: Did the five week STEM robotics summer learning program have a positive impact on the following year's attendance rate of middle school students (compared to a matched sample of students who did not receive any of the district's summer programs)? The focus of this study is a STEM Robotics Summer Learning Program funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Investing in Innovation (i3) program in a development award. The primary goal of this five-week summer program implemented by the school district was to provide additional out of school time focused on mathematics instruction and robotics so that enrolled students could increase their mathematics grade-level aptitude by the end of the program and develop interest in technology and STEM college majors and careers. The robotics component was expected to increase student engagement (including attendance) and perception of the relevance of mathematics, leading to increased student effort and math achievement. Despite limitations, the findings of this study emphasize the importance of investigating the potential impact of out-of-school programs on school-focused engagement. As Lawson and Lawson (2013) argue, research on school engagement needs to move beyond the traditional classroom and school to include out-of-school and community-focused activities. Tables are appended.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Tel: 202-495-0920; Fax: 202-640-4401; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Middle Schools; Secondary Education; Junior High Schools; Grade 5; Intermediate Grades; Elementary Education; Grade 6; Grade 7
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Department of Education (ED), Office of Innovation and Improvement
Authoring Institution: Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE)