10 Sumter schools pursuing STEM certification

District coordinator says ‘it’s where we want to take our students’

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 9/26/18

Following the success of Alice Drive Middle School in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, nine other schools in Sumter School District are now pursuing a highly regarded national certification in STEM for the first time.

Lori Smith, …

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10 Sumter schools pursuing STEM certification

District coordinator says ‘it’s where we want to take our students’

Posted

Following the success of Alice Drive Middle School in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, nine other schools in Sumter School District are now pursuing a highly regarded national certification in STEM for the first time.

Lori Smith, the district's STEM coordinator, briefed Sumter School District's Board of Trustees on the initiative Monday at the board's regular monthly work session at the district office.

Alice Drive Middle went through the accreditation process and earned the AdvancED STEM certification a few years ago. Now, it's going through a re-certification process as the nine other schools seek initial accreditation, Smith said.

The AdvancED certification is recognized by the state Department of Education and designates high-quality academic programs and high-quality schools, according to Smith.

The nine schools include six elementary schools in the district - Alice Drive, Cherryvale, High Hills, Kingsbury, Wilder and Willow Drive - and three other middle schools - Bates, Ebenezer and Hillcrest.

When adding Alice Drive Middle, that makes for a total of 10 schools in the cohort pursuing national STEM accreditation through AdvancED.

Smith said just going through the formal accreditation process is invaluable and shows what a quality STEM program would have.

"That was one of the reasons behind going after it with Alice Drive Middle," Smith said. "They already knew they were doing STEM, but the question was 'How good are we doing STEM? Are we touching all the bases, and do we have a quality program?'"

The nine additional schools are reviewing indicators to see if they have the components of a quality STEM program, their strengths and weaknesses and how to shore up weak areas, Smith said.

All the schools are using a highly regarded and rigorous curriculum - Project Lead The Way - to challenge students effectively in various subjects.

Oakland Primary School near Shaw Air Force Base is also in the STEM cohort, but because it's just kindergarten and first grade, the district is unsure if it will go through the accreditation process, Smith said.

The district is likely to pursue the AdvancED STEM certification process for the individual schools in 2020. Smith said some schools will be further along than others at that time.

STEM is the concentration area because it's "the wave of the future," Smith said, and because research shows an increasing number of jobs will be found in the area in the future.

"We're trying to prepare our students to be college and career ready, and it's where we want to take our students," Smith said.

Smith also noted that all the schools volunteered to take part in the initiative, which was led by Interim Superintendent Debbie Hamm.

In other news

The district has rescheduled its Education-Career Summit career fair days to Tuesday, Nov. 27, and Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Sumter County Civic Center. The event will be for students from three grades - seventh, 11th and 12th - and will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. The event was previously scheduled for mid-September, but hurricane preparations closed school on those days.