In order to make the Little Rock School District the highest achieving school district in the nation, we must start one school at a time. Forest Heights STEM Academy will be a new model for the Little Rock School District and one of which we can all be very proud of.
STEM fields or STEM education is an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The term is typically used in addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools from kindergarten through college to improve the nation's competitiveness in technology development. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns, and immigration policy.
STEM generally supports broadening the study of engineering within each of the other subjects and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only the gifted programs. In his 2012 Budget, President Barack Obama renamed and broadened the "Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP)" to award block grants to states for improving teacher education in those subjects.
In 2006, the United States National Academies expressed their concern about the declining state of STEM education in the United States. Its Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy developed a list of 10 actions federal policymakers could take to advance STEM education in the United States to compete successfully in the 21st century. Their top three recommendations were to:
- increase America’s talent pool by improving K–12 science and mathematics education;
- strengthen the skills of teachers through additional training in science, math, and technology; and
- enlarge the pipeline of students prepared to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees.
The focus of the STEM curriculum at Forest Heights STEM Academy will be designed to introduce students to courses and careers in the science fields; focusing on higher-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses. Students will gain the skills required to succeed in today’s challenging world, which includes the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, and drive advancements in science and technology.
Our Engineering curriculum utilizes Project Lead the Way’s (PLTW) Gateway to Technology for middle school students. Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education curricular programs used in middle and high schools across the U.S. The PLTW curriculum is founded in the fundamental problem-solving and critical-thinking skills taught in traditional career and technical education (CTE), but at the same time integrates national academic and technical learning standards and STEM principles, creating what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls one of the "great models of the new CTE succeeding all across the country." PLTW was recently cited by the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a "model for 21st-century career and technical education."
More than 4,700 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are offering PLTW courses to their students in the 2012-13 school year. In addition, PLTW trains more than 3,000 teachers each year to instruct its engaging, rigorous STEM education curriculum.
The courses will be designed to introduce students to the basic design and engineering concepts and develop technological skills and applications that will be a good foundation for high school. Computer skills will become part of the general curriculum. Therefore, one-on-one computers will be provided to all students enrolled. Students will be expected to work on developing organizational, computer, and presentations/communication skills.
Students will enroll in the Forest Heights STEM Academy starting in kindergarten and remain there until they transition to the ninth grade. All students will be expected to wear uniforms. Acceptance into the Forest Heights STEM Academy involves a commitment from both parents and students. Parents will be expected to be an active partner in their child’s education and will be asked to help with a variety of projects and activities.
The new Forest Heights STEM Academy will be a popular school because of the K-8 grade configuration. The staff and the principal will be a key component as plans are being established. Teachers and all other staff members will be a valuable asset to the success of the STEM Academy. The staff will need to embrace a commitment to the STEM Academy program implementation and commit to the time and effort to organize and implement a new and innovative program. Therefore, the process of reconstituting the staff will take place.