An education organization based in Raleigh was recognized this week at a White House summit on “Next Generation High Schools” for its efforts to improve science and math instruction.
NC New Schools/Breakthrough Learning is building a network of high schools with connections to business and industry in a project it calls STEMAccelerator. The White House highlighted the project for helping administrators and teachers “rethink high school.”
Separately, on Thursday, Lisa Rhoades of the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center was in Washington for a separate event with a collection of organizations from around the country that are building STEM “ecosystems” that bring together schools, community organizations and businesses to improve science, math and technology instruction.
The NC STEM ecosystem was one of 27 projects from around the country receiving grants from private foundations calling themselves the STEM Funders Network.
“It’s kind of a hot topic because it is the economy of the future,” Sam Houston, president of the center, said of science, math and technology education. The center will focus its project on 10 school districts in eastern North Carolina.
“When done properly in our schools, you have an inquiry-based way for kids to learn,” Houston said.
The NC New Schools project is starting with three schools in its network – Wake STEM Early College at N.C. State University, Northeast Academy of Aerospace and Advanced Technologies at Elizabeth City State University, and the Charlotte Engineering and Early College High School at UNC-Charlotte.
The schools are joint projects of NC New Schools, businesses, the state Department of Public Instruction, and the university campuses.
The first phase of the plan is to have these schools refine their work and develop deeper ties with business and industry, said Tony Habit, president NC New Schools, a public-private agency. The second phase is to add more schools to the network – early plans now are for another six to eight schools. Practices developed in the network of STEM schools will be used to advance math and science instruction at other high schools.
“The ultimate goal is these schools will support improved mathematics and science education statewide,” he said.
Pharmaceutical company GSK has given $1 million to begin development of the STEMAccelerator, Habit said, and other funding will come from public and private sources.
The efforts are part of a nationwide focus on changing high school education, Habit said.
“So many groups are working together to reimagine high school education to be more relevant to the new economy,” he said.