Congratulations to Solvay Central School District and East Syracuse-Minoa on their designation as an Early College High School. Organizational Harmony was proud to be part of this effort along with Onondaga Community College, LeMoyne College, and SUNY Oswego.
Congratulations to Jefferson-Lewis BOCES on the approval of their new Pathways to Technology Early College High School. The high school will serve students from LaFargeville Central School District, Carthage Central School District, Watertown City School District, Alexandria Central School District (SD), Thousand Islands Central SD, Lyme Central SD, General Brown Central, Sackets Harbor Central SD, Belleville Henderson Central SD, South Jefferson Central SD, Copenhagen Central SD, and Beaver River SD. The partners in this project include Jefferson Community College, Jefferson-Lewis Workforce Development Board, Jefferson County Economic Development, Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, New York Meat Co., 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, Uncle Same Boat Tours, JRECK Subs Franchise, HP Hood, Agbotic, Keyes Information Technology, Westelcom, Cazenovia Equipment, Afgritech, and Great Lakes Cheese. Students who attend the high school will be able to graduate with an Applied Associates Degree in Computer Information Technology, Agri-Business, and Hospitality and Tourism.
Congratulations to the Salmon River Central School District, Sodus Central School District, Solvay Union Free School District, and the Geneva City School District on the approval and funding of their after school programs. The programs will provide up to 540 additional hours a year in academic instructional support, tutoring, academic enrichment, character development, arts and music, and recreation opportunities for students. Organizational Harmony is proud to have assisted in this effort.
Congratulations to the Geneva City School District, Penn Yan School District, and Dundee School District on the establishment of their Extended Learning Program. The program will provide students with additional services to improve their academic achievement and college- and career-readiness, and increase the districts graduation rates.
Congratulation to St. Vrain Valley School District on the opening of their Pathways to Technology Early College High School. This first of its kind in Colorado. The high school will allow graduates to graduate with an AAS in Computer Information Technology. Organizational Harmony is proud to have assisted them in this effort.
Congratulations to Alabama Southern Community College, Murray State College, Lakeshore Technical College, and the Nevada System of Higher Education on the establishment of their distance learning programs. Organizational Harmony is proud to have been a part of that effort to establish distance learning programs for 91 colleges, high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.
Colorado Succeeds features one of our most successful customers. http://www.coloradosucceeds.org/blog/st-vrain-school-district-breaks-mold/
When a School District Breaks the Mold to Build a World Class Education System
By Luke Ragland
To get a sense of how profoundly the St. Vrain Valley School District is transforming education, one need only pay a visit to the district’s academic summer camps and talk with students. At one end of the age spectrum, nine-year-olds Uma and Madelynn, rising fourth-graders, proudly show visitors a prototype of SMILE, a “non-bullying social media app” they’re designing with two teammates under the supervision of a district teacher.
“It censors out bad words and mean stuff,” Uma says, pointing to a poster board of sketches the team has developed.
“It also helps after you’ve been bullied by giving you things that make you smile, like funny cat videos,” Madelynn adds.
The two girls are enrolled in St. Vrain’s two-week Innovation Academy for a Smarter Planet, a program for elementary school students the district has run in partnership with IBM and the University of Colorado since 2010.
At the other end of the spectrum and about five miles north, newly minted Silver Creek High School graduate Rhett Sandal is hard at work at the district’s Innovation Center, teaching beginning robotics to a group of elementary school students. Under Sandal’s supervision the students programmed robots to pick up plastic balls, walk them across a room, and place them on a low shelf.
Sandal has been immersed in St. Vrain’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs since seventh grade. This fall he will be attending the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and majoring in computer science.
In addition to developing the summer STEM curriculum and teaching, Sandal and a group of his peers have been building BiBli robots for use in Longmont libraries. BiBli is a project of a start-up robotics company called Robauto. Sandal has not only worked on the robots, he has helped develop the company’s marketing and social media strategy.
“All of this has been incredibly helpful to me,” he said. “It’s much more than just school; working on a physical product, going to market with it, having deadlines. It has accelerated my learning.”
Rethinking What Learning Looks Like
These vignettes illustrate the huge strides the suburban school district has taken over the last eight years in retooling itself to produce graduates ready to thrive in the modern world and workplace.
“The stars have aligned here” in recent years, said Brandon Shaffer, St. Vrain’s executive director of legal/government affairs, community outreach, and P-TECH. He credited strong leadership from Superintendent Don Haddad, the school board, and the teachers’ association for working together to build a forward-thinking district.
“It’s a remarkable mix,” said Shaffer, former president of the Colorado State Senate.
This year, 240 St. Vrain elementary school students are enrolled in the four-hour-per-day, two-week Innovation Academy, which director Becky Peters describes as “engineering summer camp.” Students spend one week at an IBM training center in Longmont, and the second week refining their prototypes at Skyline High School.
The district strives to keep the program affordable and offers reduced-priced options for low income students.
The story of St. Vrain’s nationally recognized transformation dates back to 2007, when the district opened a STEM academy at Skyline High School. Early on, the STEM Academy planning team led by Principal Patricia Quiñones (now executive director of innovation programs) established a partnership with CU Boulder’s School of Engineering. Together, they identified the skills students need in order to be successful at the college level and backward mapped them to the Colorado Academic Standards. They also forged an agreement under which STEM Academy students with good grades and high test scores are guaranteed admission to CU’s College of Applied Sciences.
Based on the success of the STEM Academy, the district decided to think big and raise money to offer STEM education to all students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, in the Skyline High School feeder pattern, and to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students at the newly created Innovation Center.
To realize these ambitious plans, St. Vrain in 2010 applied for and won a $3.6 million Investing in Innovation (I3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Then, in 2012, the district beat out schools from across the country to earn a $16.6 million federal Race to the Top grant. Providing STEM for all Skyline feeder students and opening an Innovation Center would “improve graduation rates and post-secondary readiness for students through personalized programming,” district officials said.
In both cases, IBM played a key role in helping St. Vrain develop their proposals, and pledging to be a key industry partner. IBM has been in the Gunbarrel area since 1965, and has worked with the school district for those 50-plus years. But in the past seven years, the partners “took it to a whole new level,” said Ray Johnson, the company’s corporate citizen and corporate affairs manager for Colorado and a member of Colorado Succeeds.
“We are big on STEM, and on workforce development in general,” Johnson said of IBM. “One of our goals is to get these kids excited, at a very young age, not just in STEM but in school in general.”
Efforts like the Innovation Academy foster an awareness, even in young students, about the “career potential” in STEM fields, Johnson said. It also helps promote vital workplace skills, notably critical thinking, working in groups, and team-building.
Real World Learning In Practice
Underpinning Sr. Vrain’s entire STEM program is the Stanford University Institute of Design’s Design Thinking approach. Design Thinking continues to provide the foundation for St. Vrain’s STEM strategy.
At the Innovation Center, which opened in 2011, students apply the 21st century skills they are learning to real-world problems and challenges. Student designers like Sandal receive $10 per hour to work on STEM-related projects including web development, application development, and robotics for industry partners and the school district.
“The Innovation Center is a bridge between what you know and what you’ve learned and real-world application,” Quiñones said. “Students [told us] they wanted to connect with the field and connect with expertise in the industry. That was our focus when we [started STEM Academy] and it continues to be a focus now [at the Innovation Center].”
Innovation Center students also have the opportunity to earn credentials that open doors to gainful employment at an early age. Earlier this year, several St. Vrain students who are earning industry credentials came down to the state legislature to support HB-1289, which would help other schools create and expand similar programs. The bill, which recently became law, provides incentives to schools when students earn an industry credential tied to in-demand jobs, finish a rigorous workplace training program, or pass the AP computer science exam. Students from the district testified about how the opportunities provided by St. Vrain have impacted and shaped their futures.
St. Vrain’s STEM-for-all focus has shown quantitative results as well. Since Skyline’s STEM Academy opened its doors in 2008 with a group of 40 students, enrollment has grown exponentially. STEM Academy has a current enrollment of 442 students and boasts over 250 graduates, approximately 40 percent of whom have gone into a STEM-related post-secondary program.
The district also emphasizes career and college planning. In the Skyline feeder pattern (the focus of the Race to the Top grant), the majority of students in grades five through 12 have Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAPs). ICAP programs aim to help students discover passions and set goals early in their school careers, and plan systematically for how they will achieve those goals either in post-secondary education or in certain career paths.
Industry Partnerships: From Apple to Otterbox
The Innovation Center continues to grow. This year, 225 student designers will work on STEM-related projects using the Innovation Center’s state of the art equipment, including an Electronics Lab donated by SparkFun, a Robotics center, multiple 3D printers and a laser printer, and a state of the art Apple computer lab for Apple Tech I and Tech 2 coursework offerings.
Since the Innovation Center opened, students have collaborated with industry partners on projects ranging from designing mobile phone apps to building websites to redesigning the life jacket to automating operations in a restaurant.
St. Vrain’s STEM work is supported by over 50 industry partnerships, including Otterbox. Through a collaboration with the Ottercares Foundation/Otterbox, a group of students designed and manufactured the company’s holiday ornament. Over the course of several weeks, students went through the entire manufacturing cycle from design to production to packing and delivering the product. It is this type of real-world application of 21st century skills that makes the Innovation Center such a powerful learning experience for students.
In addition to the opportunities available via the Innovation Center and partnerships with local businesses, St. Vrain will also open one of Colorado’s first P-TECH schools this fall. The program, a partnership with IBM and Front Range Community College, allows students in grades 9-14 to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Information Systems and Geospatial Technology, at no cost.
It is clear that St. Vrain is quickly becoming a national model for industry collaboration. This has helped the district transform itself in order to prepare students for an unpredictable future. Given the path St. Vrain is already on, we’re confident its students will thrive in the post-secondary world of today and tomorrow
Congratulations to Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and the Northern Wisconsin Educational Communications System on the enhancement and expansion of their distance learning network. The project includes Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Cooperative Educational Service Agency #3, and Cooperative Educational Service Agency #12, and 34 rural Wisconsin high schools. The project will deliver 197 distance learning courses for 7,312 high school students to provide them a full-range of educational opportunities to include 71 dual college credit courses.
Congratulations to Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, Monroe I BOCES, Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, and the Rochester City School District for being awarded funding to expand their Advance Manufacturing program. The Advanced Manufacturing Middle Skills Secondary Education Project is a collaboration between all seven of the regions Career and Technical Education Centers and the advanced manufacturing community to strengthen the capacity of the region to produce skilled employees in the advanced manufacturing sector. The five partners will align their workforce development efforts to the needs of the advanced manufacturing sector. Collaborating with over 70 advanced manufacturers they will identify desired skill sets, revise their curriculum, renovate their facilities and retool their programs to increase our capacity and ability to provide employees with the skill sets for advanced manufacturing industries and address regional shortages in advanced manufacturing. The project has five key elements:
1) work with industry partners to develop skill maps that will define the skills students need to quickly succeed in middle skill jobs in advanced manufacturing;
2) work with industry partners to revise our Career and Technical Education curriculum to ensure we provide the units that are commonly sequenced for each school and to provide students with the opportunity to master the skills they will require in the workplace;
3) renovate our classrooms to create an environment similar to the those of advanced manufacturing –clean, process oriented, well-organized, functional, and safe;
4) based on input from regional advanced manufacturers and the FAME, align our equipment with regional advanced manufacturers; and
5) market the program to attract young students. This project will produce approximately 190 graduates a year to support the success of the advanced manufacturers in our region that have a great need for middle skills employees.
Congratulations to Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES and the Geneva City School District on their award of funds to develop and open a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). The Finger Lakes P-TECH will provide a rigorous, relevant and cost-free grade 9 to 14 education focused on the knowledge and skills students need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers and leading to an Advanced Regents Diploma and an AAS degree in Information Technology, Instrumentation and Control Technologies, or Mechanical Technology. The Finger Lakes P-TECH will serve up to 246 students from 18 school districts.
Congratulations to Rochester Works, Finger Lakes Works, and Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming Workforce Investment Board on their successful award of $5.2 million dollars to provide training in Computer Technology and Advanced Manufacturing in the Finger Lakes Area. Finger Lakes Community College, Monroe Community College, and Genesee Community College will provide the educational programs for approximately 1,500 individuals. http://www.rbj.net/article.asp?aID=210877
Congratulations to Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative on being one of five districts nationwide to win the Race to the Top – District competition. Organizational Harmony is proud to have been a part of building their successful plan and proposal. KVEC will receive $30 million to develop: 1) personalized learning environments to include anytime, everywhere learning systems; 2) Next Generation classrooms to include distance learning; 3) accessible data systems to include electronic individual student portfolio; 4) improved teacher and leader effectiveness to include leadership academies; and 5) improved college-and career readiness to include personalized career pathways. Organizational Harmony has now developed one award Race to the Top District winner application for both competitions. https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-names-five-winners-120-million-race-top-district-grant-c