Combining Entrepreneurship and Web Development for High School Students

A Pilot Evaluation of the Startup Tech Program and High School Students' College and Career Aspirations

by Benjamin K. Master, David Schulker, Geoffrey E. Grimm, Lea Xenakis

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Research Questions

  1. To what extent does the Startup Tech program affect students' college and career aspirations in the area of business or in such technical fields as computer science, math, science, and engineering?
  2. To what extent does the Startup Tech program affect students' belief in their abilities to accomplish difficult tasks in general, in the area of problem-solving, or in the specific subject areas of science, math, computer science, and engineering?

The Startup Tech program is built around an innovative, applied curriculum that aims to teach creative problem-solving and technical skills in the context of developing and pitching a new web-based business idea. The curriculum encourages student learning in technical areas through practice in coding and web design. This pilot evaluation of Startup Tech assesses whether 12th-grade students in one New York City school experienced either improved self-efficacy or changes in their college and career plans during the year in which they were in the program. For the most part, the authors did not identify evidence of program effects on students' survey-reported self-efficacy or generic college and career aspirations. However, the authors found evidence that the program is effective at increasing recent student interest in business as a primary career path. Overall, the evaluation indicated that the program might have influenced students' college and career aspirations.

The results of this study can inform future investigation and hypothesis-generation related to the potential impacts of Startup Tech and other programs like it that aim to encourage student interest in and mastery of promising career paths. In addition, the survey instrument RAND developed to gauge students' college and career interests appears to be sensitive to differences in mind-sets across student subgroups and changes over time within groups. It may prove valuable in future studies that aim to examine differences in or changes to students' self-efficacy and college and career plans.

Key Findings

Participation in the Program Corresponded to a Significant Increase in Students Who Reported a Recent Interest in Business as a Primary Career Focus

  • This finding reflects a substantial increase in the number of Startup Tech students who reported that they recently changed their primary career interests and planned to pursue careers in the field of business.
  • These results are plausible evidence of impact given the program's primary focus on hands-on instruction in entrepreneurship and business development skills.
  • There was not a similar trend in terms of increased student interest in the area of computer science as a primary career interest, in spite of the inclusion of coding related to web design in the Startup Tech curriculum.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Describing the Startup Tech Program and Our Study Context

  • Chapter Three

    Data

  • Chapter Four

    Our Approach to Evaluating Startup Tech

  • Chapter Five

    Results

  • Chapter Six

    Summary and Implications

  • Appendix

    Survey Instrument

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education under a contract with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

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