It stands to reason that the more time a student spends learning a subject, the better that student will perform on tests of that subject matter. A recently-released report from the National Center on Time & Learning erases any doubt about it — where science is concerned, at least.
Five case studies look at public schools, including the Matthew J. Kuss Middle School, in Fall River, MA, where the school day was extended by 100 minutes per day beginning in the ’06-’07 school year. Science learning benefited from the lengthened school day, and so did the students’ performance on the science portion of the MCAS.
Supported with funding from the Noyce Foundation, the report, “The Power of More Time to Deepen Inquiry and Engagement,” lists “key successful practices” identified across the five case-study schools. It concludes, “Without fundamentally restructuring the school calendar—particularly at the elementary and middle school levels—to add more learning time and prioritizing science during that time, most American students will simply not spend enough time to become either proficient in, or excited about, science.”
The U.S. Departments of Education and Defense announced the launch of “Learning Registry,” an open-source community and technology designed to improve the quality and availability of learning resources in education. Rather than creating an alternative destination to existing websites, Learning Registry is a communication system that allows existing educational portals and online systems to publish, consume, and share important information about learning resources with each other and the public, while respecting the privacy of individual users.Basic data about resources—grade level, subject area, and author—can be shared through Learning Registry, as well as more complex data such as curricular standards alignment information.
Marlborough High School’s early-college program, called STEM, integrates project-based learning and problem-solving for real-world applications across all subjects. Marlborough is the first of six school districts in Massachusetts to implement the STEM program. As part of it, juniors and seniors can take up to 16 college credits at Framingham State University.
Among the 23 grantees that secured funding through the second round of the US Department of Education’s i3 Development Grant program: the Turnaround Using Increased Learning Time (TILT) program of the Boston Public Schools. With i3 funding amounting to nearly $3 million, the program will, “… catalyze school turnaround and the rapid acceleration of achievement for 1000 students per year; further refine and develop alternative resource allocation and staffing strategies in order to sustain the expanded day at little or no additional cost after the i3 funding expires; and disseminate effective strategies for significantly increasing learning time to support large-scale replication.”
When 8th grader Chance Williams found himself floundering in Spanish class, his tech-savvy father floated the suggestion that his son be allowed to take Java as a foreign language instead. The school agreed, and permitted Chance and his dad to organize an independent study course.
Things have gone well: Chance hopes to get his Java certification by the end of 9th grade, and already has produced an app, Droidbox, which has been downloaded 500 times.
Community colleges from across the nation are recognizing the need to spark students’ interest in STEM subjects early in their education as a way of enticing them into science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-related professions.
Science fairs, STEM-focused summer camps, and specialized teacher training are among the opportunities made available by community colleges to students and teachers interested in pursuing STEM subjects. Central Community College in Nebraska, for example, has a program called Project SHINE (Shaping High-quality Integrated Nebraska Education) that has both a teacher-training component and a STEM summer camp for 9th and 10th graders. Project SHINE director Dan Davidchik says that he has noticed “tremendous changes in the way teachers connect STEM with what goes on in business and industry.”
Now that computers abound in classrooms, what’s next? Some think that 3D printers could be the next high-tech classroom tool to transform the way students learn core STEM principles.
Dozens of Indiana schools are taking part in Project Lead the Way — an innovative program designed to prepare students for jobs in high-tech engineering. Currently, more than 130 high school students participate in the program, enhancing their job prospects in a challenging economic climate.
With the goal of getting young students inspired by and excited about learning STEM subjects, a new project in Arizona, Engineers Serving Education, has the ambitious goal of reaching nearly 10,000 elementary and middle school students over the next year.
The project, spearheaded by Arizona State University, taps the expertise of faculty members from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “By combining the technical expertise and resources of the Schools of Engineering with the educational expertise and resources of the Teachers College, we will make a significant impact on the teachers of tomorrow as well as current teachers who are serving as mentors to our student teachers,” said Nancy Perry, assistant dean of Teachers College. “Ideally those mentor teachers will share the engineering-based learning tools with their colleagues and spread the impact of the project even further.”
Paula Allen-Meares, Vice President of the University of Illinois, makes the case for colleges and universities stepping up creatively to meet the challenge of graduating tomorrow’s STEM professionals. Along the way, she notes the critical importance of elementary, middle, and high schools in influencing students’ career paths.