Delaware STEM Academy. A Case for Support

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1 Delaware STEM Academy A Case for Support January 2015

2 2 Our Mission The Delaware STEM Academy is a public charter high school that prepares students for the future economy through the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) using engineering, environmental science and energy service as a basis for learning. It is an ethically driven educational environment emphasizing intellectual curiosity, individual responsibility and planetary stewardship.

3 3 Introduction The Delaware STEM Academy provides students with the opportunity to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) using engineering, environmental science and energy concepts within a project-based living laboratory. Students are given the opportunity to work in a hands-on learning environment and become self-reliant, logical thinkers who can carry these skills into the real world. Lastly, the Academy has a unique ethics-based social consciousness focusing on environmental sustainability and care for the planet. The Delaware STEM Academy is a tuitionfree public charter high school. It received its charter from the Delaware Department of Education in April 2014 and classes begin September Who are we? The Delaware STEM Academy will serve 9 th through 12 th grade students who reside in Delaware and have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Recruitment will be focused on the corridor from and including the City of Wilmington, the Route 40/Route 13 through New Castle into Delaware City, serving students from the Brandywine, Colonial, Red Clay, and Christina School Districts. The Academy s total enrollment by year 5 of school operations will be students, equal to about 5% of students who currently attend high school in these school districts. It is an open enrollment school; there are no entrance assessments or preferences for students. We welcome diversity among our students regardless race, gender, income and aptitude. Only a love of learning is needed to succeed at the Delaware STEM Academy. Why STEM? The Academy was conceived to help address the demand for future workers who can help create solutions for ever-evolving global engineering, environmental and energy needs. The demand for professionals in STEM fields is projected to outpace

4 4 the supply of trained workers and professionals within the next decade. According to the President s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the United States will need to increase the number of students who receive undergraduate STEM degrees by about 34% annually over current rates. Additionally, STEM competencies are increasingly required for workers both within and outside specific STEM occupations. In addition, according to the Delaware STEM Council, there are currently 3.8 times more STEM jobs available in Delaware than unemployed individuals to fill them. Student attrition rates in college, particularly engineering, have been relatively high, with nearly 42% of students entering engineering schools dropping out by their second year. Our corporate and educational partners have expressed concerns over the lack of skills from employees entering the workforce from college or high school. This underscores that students are not adequately prepared to enter STEM programs or job when leaving high school. Longitudinal studies indicate that pursuit of STEM-based study while in high school is a better predictor of degree completion in college than factors like grade point average (GPA) and SAT scores (Delaware STEM Council Annual Report, 2012). A typical student graduating from the Academy will demonstrate readiness for college-level coursework or work-related skills in the STEM disciplines. Students will graduate with the capability to work in demanding and rigorous specialized environments while possessing the key 21 st century skills that facilitate problem-solving, collaboration, and criticalthinking. How will we help students learn? The Academy will focus on interdisciplinary, project-based learning centered on science, There are currently 3 STEM-related jobs available for every one unemployed Delawarean. Let s prepare our students for opportunities of a lifetime.

5 5 technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Academy will utilize the New Tech Network (NTN) project-based learning concept as its platform for learning. There are currently 134 NTN schools in 23 states across the country, 24 of which are STEM focused. NTN STEM schools value the emphasis on teaching, assessment, and demonstration of 21 st century skills. The NTN model maximizes the likelihood that students will exit high school with the skills needed to excel in collaborative workplaces such as those found in advanced STEM fields. The NTN school design also allows for the melding of STEM disciplines into courses such as History or English, which traditionally do not include STEM topics. By providing the opportunity to include the arts and humanities into the sciences, students are challenged to explore the possibilities of science and the implications for humanity. The NTN school model has three key elements of school design: 1) Project-based learning (PBL) is at the heart of the instructional approach and is used across all disciplines and grade levels; 2) A 1:1 student to computer ratio to facilitate an innovative approach to instruction and culture through the use of technology; and, 3) Promotion of a culture of trust, respect, According to the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), Engineering design, by its very nature, is a pedagogical strategy that promotes learning across disciplines. A K-12 engineering curriculum introduces young students to relevant and fulfilling science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content in an integrated fashion through exploration of the built world around them. and responsibility. NTN schools demonstrate high levels of student engagement and continued growth along several measures of academic progress. The rationale for using a New Tech Network learning platform is strong. Aggregately, New Tech Network schools demonstrate an overall 91% graduation rate, a rate 14% greater than the national rate of 80 percent and 78% for Delaware. In urban and rural areas, where graduation rates often lag, New Tech schools achieve impressive graduation rates of 93% and 96% respectively. Further, average graduation rates for New Tech schools exceed 92% in every state with a New Tech graduating class.

6 6 In addition, New Tech graduates enroll in college at a greater rate than the national average. In the last two years, New Tech graduates enrolled in college at a rate 9% greater than the national average. In 2012, 73% of graduating New Tech students entered postsecondary institutions the year after graduation, compared to 67% nationally and 47.3% in Delaware. New Tech schools send a greater proportion of students to 4-year colleges than schools across the nation. In 2012, 42% of New Tech graduates enrolled in 4-year institutions compared to 38% of all high school graduates nationally. Additionally, 31% of New Tech graduates entered 2-year colleges in 2012, compared to the national rate of 29%. In urban areas, 68% of New Tech graduates enrolled in formal postsecondary education, with a larger proportion of students enrolling in 2-year colleges (41%) than in 4-year institutions (27%). For the class of 2011, 83% of New Tech graduates who enrolled in college continued their postsecondary education into a second year. The ability to persist is evident for both students attending 4-year colleges, where 91% return for their sophomore year, and students attending 2-year institutions, where 71% return for a second year. This may have important implications for

7 7 students entering engineering programs and the need to stem the high attrition rate for students leaving these programs after 2 years. What are our goals? The Delaware STEM Academy intends to graduate students with skills to carry them through college and enter into the workforce. It is the Academy s opinion that students lack the real-life application necessary to understand the purpose, theory and mechanics behind STEM problems. Through the New Tech Network, project-based learning will provide integrated learning opportunities across the curriculum. Our goals for our students: Lower dropout rate than the averages of the Brandywine, Colonial, Christina and Red Clay school districts SAT scores of 1550 or above Expulsion and disciplinary case rate less than 5 percent of student population College enrollment at 80% for first five years, mirroring the NTN averages thereafter Graduation rate of 90% or above College persistence rate (from freshman to sophomore year) of 80% Options for both college-bound and career-bound graduates Dual credit opportunities while still in high school Opportunities for internships, job placement, college placement and community service As a public school, the Academy will comply with all state curriculum standards and provide transportation and nutrition services including free and reduced lunch to eligible students.

8 8 A Well Rounded Student Students will experience all of the traditional activities of a typical high school drama, arts, English language arts, foreign languages, music, history, and athletics. Students will receive guidance counseling, have access to a wellness center and participate in internships, mentoring and community service opportunities. Sports will include basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country and cycling. Other athletics will be considered as the school grows. More importantly, students will participate in an ethics-driven approach to environmental stewardship through community service projects and the integration of these sustainability practices into their projects and curriculum. Pathways to Success The STEM Pathways at DSA will include four years of engineering and design coursework (one year beyond state requirements). After taking Explorations of STEM as an introductory course, rising 10th grade students will select to enter one of two different STEM pathways, Engineering or Environmental Sciences, to complete the remaining three pathway credits required by the Academy. In addition, students wishing to explore opportunities in the workforce will have the option to participate in our Career and Technical Education pathway, focusing on engineering, agribusiness, life sciences and technology. In conjunction with our partner universities (University of Delaware, Delaware Technical Community College, and Wilmington University), students will be able to take dual credit courses, allowing them to earn college credit while in high school. The Academy is also partnering with local unions to prepare students for apprenticeship in various industries with the possibility of waiving the apprenticeship exams for

9 9 students completing the Career and Technical Education offerings at the school. Where will we be located? The Academy has been presented with a number of options for locating the school. We have identified the corridor between the City of Wilmington and the City of New Castle along Route 9 and Route 13 as the area where we will locate. It serves a diverse population of students and is currently without significant charter or STEM-based alternatives. It also has access to major transportation arteries (I-95, I-295 and Rt. 13) and public transportation. This area consists of 67% low income population and it is anticipated that 68% of our students will be eligible for free or reduced lunches. Based on fit tests for our operating concept, we will need approximately 65,000 square feet of space for our full enrollment. Under our integrated STEM concept, classrooms will serve as spaces for not only traditional classroom activities but also for working in groups, working on large and small projects and space for experimentation. The classroom sizes will be larger than traditional classrooms but the number needed will likely be smaller. We anticipate the creation of multipurpose space, a wellness center, collaborative corridors, group teacher space, laboratories, technology center and library. During the planning phase, the board has worked with the New Tech Network to outline the following requirements for the facility: 8 integrated classrooms/ laboratories ( square feet each) 6 regular classrooms ( square feet each) 1 library 1 cafeteria 1 physical education / wellness space 1 administrative suite 1 Teacher/Facilitator suite (open space offices/kiosks/cubicles) Various Collaborative meetings spaces

10 10 The Academy is considering these alternatives will an eye toward cost effectiveness, flexibility and long term affordability. The Academy will lease community outdoor space for athletic activities. Your support will be critical in determining and ultimately completing the building of the school. Who are our partners? To create an industry-driven educational experience for students, the Board of the Academy was organized to include leaders in the STEM industries. As part of the development of the school, the leadership of the Academy reached out to other industry organizations, professional engineering and environmental management firms and the scientific community to gauge interest in the concept of a STEM high school and found overwhelming support for the application and operation of the school. Our partners include: We look forward to increasing the number of corporate, individual and foundation partners as we raise funds for the school.

11 11 How can you help? As we prepare for the enrollment of students in the Academy, the Academy needs to fund the startup year through private donations. These funds will be used to select our school leaders, develop course curriculum and locate and develop our facility. Our campaign intends to raise $1.3 million over the course of 18 months (January 2015 through June 2016). Our needs include: Operating costs - $400,000 Capital costs- $900,000 Total - $1,300,000 Operational startup costs include funds for staff hiring, instructional materials, lease payments and administrative. Capital costs include fit out of the facility and furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Our fundraising campaign provides ample opportunities for you to participate. We have four levels of contributions: Friend - $1 to $1,000 Bronze Level - $1,001 to $2,500 Silver Level - $2,501 to $5,000 Gold Level - $5,001 to 10,000 Platinum Level - $10,001 to $25,000 Founder - $25,000 and above The Academy has received generous support from the Longwood Foundation, the Gilliam Foundation among others. To date, we have raised over $270,000 toward our goal. We offer opportunities for naming rights to classrooms and other spaces at the Academy to donors who wish to leave a legacy of support. The Delaware STEM Academy is a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code. All contributions are tax deductible. You may donate online through our website at or by reaching out to the Delaware Community Foundation at

12 12 Delaware STEM Academy Frequently Asked Questions What is a charter school? Independent public school governed by a board of directors Is exempt from most laws and regulations which govern other public schools Open to all students who apply No charge for enrollment Will Delaware STEM Academy be held to the same content standards and accountability requirements as other public schools in the State of Delaware? Yes- Delaware STEM Academy would be required to address the state content standards in their instructional programs and administer the same state assessments as all other public schools. What does STEM mean? Will my child have access to other subjects like art and music? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Students will have an opportunity to learn these subjects through an engineering and environmental sciences platform and an ethically-based environmental stewardship program. While courses that align with this learning focus will be the core of the curriculum, students will also receive instruction in the core content areas like English and Social Studies. Students will also have access to enrichment courses in the arts. What is the New Tech school model and how will that look in Delaware STEM Academy? The New Tech design provides an instructional approach centered on project-based learning, a culture that empowers students and teachers, and integrated technology in the classroom. Learning is contextual, creative, and shared; students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking, communication, and creativity. All classrooms have a one-to-one computing ratio. Students will work on projects and in teams. They will be accountable to their peers and acquire a level of responsibility similar to what they would experience in a professional work environment.

13 13 Students will be expected to give public presentations of their learning to their teachers, peers, and members of the community multiple times a year. How will Delaware STEM Academy recruit and admit students? Any student residing in Delaware may apply to any Delaware charter school that offers instruction in a grade that the student is eligible to attend Delaware STEM Academy has a proposed an opening date of Fall 2016 Applications will be accepted for grade 9 and 10 for the first year of enrollment. One grade will be added each year through 12 th grade until the school reaches full capacity at 650 students. If the school receives more applications than there are seats available, the school would hold a lottery before February. Parents and students would be notified in advance if a lottery is necessary. How do applicants apply to a charter school? Students seeking admission to a charter school should contact the charter school directly to inquire about the application process for that school. A Delaware Standardized Application for Education Options is required, but each charter school often has additional application requirements. What commitment is made when a student enrolls in Delaware STEM Academy? A student would be expected to remain enrolled in the school for a minimum of one school year, unless for good cause. The student s parents or guardians would be asked to sign a written confirmation to that effect. Are students with disabilities and other special needs accommodated at Delaware STEM Academy? Yes. Delaware STEM Academy will be able to accommodate the needs of all our students. What types of extra-curricular activities will Delaware STEM Academy offer? Initially, the school will sponsor athletics, including basketball, soccer, volleyball and cross country. As the school matures, we will look for input

14 14 from students and parents about what additional types of extra-curricular activities we could offer. Where will Delaware STEM Academy be located? Delaware STEM Academy intends to be located along the Route 9 corridor between Wilmington and New Castle. The school has identified several sites for the location of the school. Final determination will occur by April Will my child have transportation to and from Delaware STEM Academy? All students will have bus transportation available to and from school bus stops. Are charter schools held to the same content standards and accountability requirements as other public schools in the State of Delaware? Yes- charter schools are required to address the state content standards in their instructional programs and administer the same state assessments as all other public schools. What is the intent of the charter school law? Improving student learning Encouraging the use of different and innovative or proven school environments and teaching strategies Provide parents and students with improved measures of school improvement Provide parents and students greater opportunities in choosing public schools Do you have other questions that you don t see answered here? Please visit our website at

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