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The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

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Implementing the small schools, STEM schools and Global Schools programs

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So how are the various Wake County elementary and middle schools putting their money for small schools, Global Schools and STEM programs to use?

As noted in this Sunday North Raleigh News article by Chelsea Kellner, the principals at the schools getting the extra resources say they are busy solidifying the programs in each school's culture.

Those getting small schools money now have additional staff and full-time art, music and PE specialists. Previously, they only had enough funding to bring those specialists in three or four days a week.

In addition to student enrichment, principals say that having the specialists full time gives more opportunities for regular classroom teachers to do lesson planning, work one-on-one with remedial students and collaborate with other faculty.

At the Global Schools, they focus on global culture and foreign language learning. Foreign language instruction is still the exception rather than the rule at Wake elementary schools, especially non-magnet schools.

For instance, the Global Schools program at Jeffreys Grove Elementary has students start with learning about their own community in kindergarten. As the grades go by, students expand to learning about the country, the continent and the rest of the world.

"It's been a great focus for our school and a nice way to set us apart," sad Jeffreys Grove Principal Lisa Cruz. "We do have so many schools in a small area, but what's special about Jeffreys Grove, you can't get at the other schools."

The STEM schools have focused on science, technology, engineering and math. For instance, York Elementary has been working with local engineering and technology professionals, including N.C. State University faculty, to grow the program.

As noted in this North Raleigh News article last month by Chelsea Kellner, the renamed Hilburn Drive Academy is keeping its STEM focus while also getting the Global School program.

Hilburn will offer a choice of either Spanish or Mandarin Chinese twice a week starting in kindergarten, as well as an integrated arts program. Current strategies also call for middle school science and technology labs at a new mobile unit behind the school.

How these various new programs pushed by Superintendent Tony Tata will fare under the new choice-based student assignment plan, budget woes and the new school board majority remains to be seen.

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training

I'm very concerned about how these programs are being implemented. What specific training are teachers receiving on how to incorporate STEM into the classroom?  Who is providing it and who is paying for it? 

I Can Answer A Few Questions...

about the Global Network schools.  JGE already had a teacher that was a 3rd grade teacher that had a degree in international education and studies.  When JGE became apart of the Global Network Schools she fit nicely into the role of our Spanish teacher and helps out in other areas of the Global studies program.    We also hired another teacher to help with the Global Studies aspect of our curriculm.  The other regular classroom teachers have been incorporating a global aspect into their classrooms by taking existing projects, etc and taking them global.  For example, when the 4th graders do their research projects that they have done for the last 5 or 6 years they could pick any topic.  Now the teachers are having them pick a country to research.  The children have been very excited about learning about different places throughout the world.   We are  also taking advantage of some of the free resources that are available through our local universities!  We are also apart of a network of schools that have the global studies program that have shared information back and forth.    I can't speak for the STEM schools, but I can imagine there are already plenty of teachers that have a math and science background that are able to contribute.  There is other training that has taken place at our school, but many of these teachers did some of it during the summer months.  As far as who has paid for it...I'm not sure!   

STEM School Money

I was very surprised to learn that not all designated STEM schools actually received money for being a STEM school. Our school, Conn, received the designation...but no funds. Conn is using money garnered from before and after school programs to purchase Ipads.

York received the iPads and months of employment

...to equal a part time STEM coordinator role. There is also a teacher's committee engaged in helping to bring STEM curriculum to every classroom, and to decide what iPad apps to purchase for each grade level cart (there are 30 iPads per grade level and they travel on a cart with the laptop runs those particular iPads). There are several other additions such as clubs, different field trips, science fairs, STEM nights, math night, and the list is growing. I've been impressed so far and know the program has the potential to be even better in future years.
My only complaint so far is that there wasn't money to buy apps with the iPads. That has come from the PTA's curriculum enhancement fundraising efforts, and I think it probably should have come as part of the iPad package. It's a small quibble, but one I hope the system fixes for the next STEM school as getting the app money and all of the different master accounts set up for the ipad carts was a quite a big job.

iPads and apps do not equal STEM

STEM should be a lot more than a part time coordinator and iPads and apps.  What about teacher training?  Seems like there should be supplies and materials to do some activities?  Fact is, this is an empty designation but a great photo opp.  I've been very disappointed in how this was done, but it sure sounds good unless you are there.

IPADS and APPs do not equal

STEM and I don't believe RaleighLaura was implying that.  That is just one aspect of getting the STEM and Global Network programs.  In our school there has been all kinds of learning that is being done on the IPADs and with the added technology.  With kids that are visual learners that IPADS have been a great tool.   I have seen a bunch of very excited children that look forward to the days they are getting to use the IPADs in their classroom.   We also has some technology that allows the teacher to give the children an informal test right after material has been introduced.  She sees the test results immediately.  Based on the outcome the teacher can gauge how well the class as a whole grasped the material.  It helps the teachers figure out if more time is needed on the subject.   Technology can enhance the learning environment in ways that teachers just can't do on their own. 

yes, but hands on experiences trump technology...

....and we don't do near enough of that (real world examples and experiences) and now we are giving time to technology instead.  They seem to get enough technology at home through tv, Playstation, Xbox, computers, smart phones, LeapPads, Kindles, iPads, etc etc etc.   How many parents that you know do hands on science or math exploration?  For that matter, how many teachers do?  The idea is to make them think.  I'm not saying the iPads are bad; I AM saying that giving schools iPads and not providing additional teacher training and materials for STEM integration and then calling it a "STEM" school is.  And that's pretty much what was done.

Mom2teens, that is not all that is done.

I think you are suggesting that STEM is fluffy or not substantive in the approach. Calling it a photo opp is not correct, and is dismissive of what so many people are working hard to implement. Our school officially became a STEM and got the resources in August, when we also got a new primcipal. This curriculum doesn't just pop up fully formed. You have to be realistic in your expectations with any new implementation. We are off to a great start, and are way the heck better off than we were at this time last year, so if it is not enough for you, please feel free to jump in. We need volunteers for the science exploration day on January 6th. Call the school for more info!

The new resources went to

The new resources went to the schools added to the STEM program. Click here for the press release. Click here for a release listing all the STEM schools.

I could be wrong, but I

I could be wrong, but I think Conn has the designation because of the magnet program that was already there.  There is a larger network of STEM schools, including Conn, SRHS, Brentwood, and the new non-magnet schools that received the program. 

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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