New STEM Designated Schools to receive $10K award from Governor Lee's Future Workforce Initiative
Posted on 05/13/2020
Photo: Electric car building and racing is STEM education at work.  Racers are Brody Harp (driving) and Alex Dowlen (Team #04), both seventh-graders at Hixson Middle School.The Tennessee Department of Education announced this week that Governor Lee's Future Workforce Initiative would award $10,000 to each of the 22 schools that received the Tennessee STEM School Designation for 2020. Hamilton County Schools had the most schools earn the designation this year with five. The schools were Red Bank Elementary, Harrison Elementary, Red Bank High, Hixson Middle, and Normal Park Museum Magnet.

In 2019, Governor Bill Lee announced the Future Workforce Initiative to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) training in K-12 schools. The initiative aims to put Tennessee in the top 25 states for creating technology jobs through launching new CTE, STEM-focused programs in public schools.

When Hamilton County Schools launched the Office of Innovation and Choice last June, one of Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson's goals was for the district to increase STEM opportunities and designations. The Office of Innovation launched a STEM Cohort and provided year-long support to schools pursuing the state designation. The STEM focus addressed Accelerating Student Achievement and Future Ready Students, two key areas in the Future Ready 2023 five-year plan.

"Investing in our students' futures starts with preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow," said Gov. Lee. "The Future Workforce Initiative will increase access to important career and technical education for students at all levels, and we're glad the state can help our STEM-designated schools build upon their great work."

Funds allocated for the first time through the Future Workforce Initiative will provide 2020 and 2021 STEM Designated Schools with a $10,000 grant intended to continue to sustain and expand these schools' STEM or STEAM programs. In the past, STEM Designated Schools received a small stipend with the award.

Locally, The Public Education Foundation (PEF) worked with the district and schools through the application process. Each school committed at least two teacher leaders to participate in STEM Fellows through PEF. The innovative year-long fellowship helps teachers from Hamilton County Schools grow as instructional experts, teacher leaders, and community connectors. PEF has partnered with Hamilton County Schools since 2012 in the fellowship program.

"The five recognized schools did an outstanding job this year of building on their already strong programs and increasing STEM and STEAM learning for kids," said Jill Levine, chief of Innovation and Choice, Hamilton County Schools. "To have five in one year earn the designation is a big accomplishment for the schools and district."

The 2020 Tennessee STEM designated schools were selected for their STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) integration into learning experiences for all students, which prepares them for success after graduation. Each school awarded this designation was evaluated through an application process, including a self-evaluation, interviews, and hosting site visits with the Tennessee STEM Designation review team.

Designated schools will also be invited to share promising practices at the next Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit and become a member of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network's group of schools. The 22 schools chosen this year join the other 26 previously designated schools and will serve as models, which other schools may visit and learn. The five schools from Hamilton County Schools join STEM School Chattanooga as STEM Designated schools in the district.

Photo: Electric car building and racing is STEM education at work. Racers are Brody Harp (driving) and Alex Dowlen (Team #04), both seventh-graders at Hixson Middle School.