I made the assumption that this is an established program. It isn't. It is an established direction that the feds want to go in (see the National Science Foundation website for details or the STEM caucus in Congress website). As well, over in the Tri-cities, a new foundation has been created, Washington State STEM Education Foundation. They have a factsheet in their discussion area that lays out what they say STEM is and is not.
The STEM school over there is Delta High School, organized by the districts in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. From their website:
Delta High School is a small public high school offering immersion in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), combined with other subjects. This design brings a unique high school experience to our community. Delta students will direct their learning and practice inquiry, problem, and project-based learning.
Delta High School has a rigorous and relevant STEM-focused curriculum that prepares each student for career, college, and life success in a changing world. State, national, and college-ready standards serve as the launch pad for this curriculum.
"The STEM high school design provides a tailored learning environment for students of all academic levels and interests. Key characteristics of a STEM school include:
- College-ready and work-ready culture
- Student as a worker, teacher as a facilitator, industry/community as mentors
- Emphasis on personalized learning plans
- Another pathway to success for students"
Q: How was a STEM school developed for our community?
In a meeting with the three school boards in August 2007, Battelle, Washington State University Tri-Cities, and the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland School Districts formally proposed creating a new public, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) high school in the Tri-Cities. Initial reaction from the school boards and the community was positive. The boards encouraged the partners to proceed with planning and to return when they had a plan in place that covered an educational framework, finances and a facility.
Since that meeting, grants from Battelle and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation allowed the partners to hire a planning project manager, Amy Ochander, in October 2007, and a planning principal, Deidre Holmberg, in July 2008. The grants also allowed the team to hire nationally recognized consultants in small school design and STEM education to help plan the Tri-Cities school.
Following the August 2007 meeting, the partners aggressively set about to create a highly personalized school that attracts a broad spectrum of students who will be immersed in STEM learning experiences. The partners held public meetings and engaged parents, students, teachers, scientists, engineers and community members in the planning process. Included in the school will be opportunities for student learning that parallels the ways scientists, engineers and mathematicians conduct inquiries and expand knowledge. Partnerships that connect academic learning to the world beyond the classroom will help prepare students to succeed in post-secondary education, careers and citizenship.
Representatives from the three school districts, WSU Tri-Cities, Battelle, consultants and many local education and science professionals collaborate to create the school’s education framework, which includes a program of study, curriculum and classes."
Sounds great, huh? However, that means that every STEM school in the country is probably, unless it goes through NSF, being developed differently. It also means that the development of Cleveland's STEM program is in the hands of our district.
I do and don't mean that how it sounds. I do mean that this district is not great at developing programs. I don't mean it can't be done. The district developed the biotech program at Ballard and it works well from what I understand. However, that's a program, not a whole school. The district developed the academy system at Cleveland and that hasn't worked well. Also, you'll note the bold up there about community engagement. The district, as usual, has put the cart before the horse.
Where was the community input that decided this would be what parents in that community want? It would be great if it was such a fab program that kids all over the district fight to get in but first, whether it's an Option school or not, it sits in someone's community and it should be something the community understands and supports. Just saying STEM isn't good enough.
Here's from the staff report to the Board in June:
In order to effectively implement the STEM program a project team has been identified,
including a project manager and sponsor, and a statement of work has been created. The
following are deliverables for the team:
• Identification of the appropriate STEM program model
• Development of a project budget and long-term costs for the program (note: this
project team is not charged with identifying the funding source but rather with
identifying the costs)
• Creation of a communications plan, including a plan for stakeholder engagement
• Identification of the necessary instructional skill sets to ensure staff are ready
• Creation of an implementation plan, including a readiness plan for the 09-10
Cleveland 9th graders, in preparation for a 2010-2011 continuation at CHS STEM
• Creation of a transition plan for those students who chose not to remain in the
• Creation of an evaluation tool for the first, second and third years of implementation
Delta High sounds like a lot of planning and joint partnerships. We have a ton of great universities and businesses that could make Cleveland STEM a powerhouse. Is this happening now? Will it happen in time to open Cleveland as a STEM? (I mean I think I understand that Cleveland will be a STEM Option school by 2010. But if it is that soon, that's a lot of planning to make it REALLY work.)
So the Action report approved in June this year says:
"STEM high schools are unique, and offer a systematic, four-year course of study with an intense focus on preparing students for academic and professional futures in science, technology, engineering and math. Because of this, a STEM school is not necessarily desirable to all students. "
As opposed to what Delta High says:
"Q: Is the school just meant for AP students or those who are going into science or engineering careers?No! The STEM school is uniquely positioned to provide a highly personalized education to a broad spectrum of students – students of all academic levels and interests. In fact, we encourage students who wouldn’t normally gravitate toward advanced science or math courses to attend the school"
Under Research and Data on the Action Report it says:
"Numerous Board work sessions and community meetings included discussion of how different
schools would be categorized, what tiebreakers would apply, and how the different types of
schools would interact in the new assignment plan. "
That was on the SAP, not STEM. There were not community meetings on STEM.
The report also references a "STEM Foundation". I cannot find it on-line and they provide no links anywhere.
So that was a good question to ask. I'm not sure I have faith in the answers the district has provided.