U-46 high schools recognized for STEM progress

Updated 1/7/2013 11:31 PM

Biotechnical engineering and aerospace engineering will be among the future courses offered to Elgin Area School District U-46 students thanks to support from a national nonprofit pushing science, technology, engineering and math classes in middle and high schools.

Project Lead the Way provides curriculums and standardized tests for a variety of STEM classes along with professional development and support for teachers. Participation in the program across U-46 middle and high schools means students have seen a growing number of options for STEM classes since 2007.

The district's high schools were recognized by the board of education Monday night for their progress. Bartlett High School was the district's pioneer, first incorporating Project Lead the Way in its Science, Engineering and High Technology Academy.

Carol DePue, technical education coordinator for U-46, said one of the biggest assets of the classes are their integrated instructional model that gives students the opportunity to connect what they're learning in math and science to future career application.

"Because it is an integrated instruction model and students are required to work in teams to problem solve and critical think and do presentations, a lot of the skills -- in addition to the specific skills related to engineering -- are transferable," DePue said. "Students who may not choose to go into engineering, it's going to make them more successful at whatever they choose to do."

Project Lead the Way courses were recently approved for honors status in U-46. Many colleges and universities nationwide have begun accepting the classes because of the standardized training and assessments from state to state, DePue said.

Streamwood, Larkin and South Elgin high schools all received "official PLTW school" banners during Monday's board meeting, and Elgin High School was recognized for its provisional certification.

If EHS can get enough students to enroll in a principles of engineering course for the next academic year, it will be able to move beyond the provisional certification, DePue said.

Project Lead the Way gave U-46 districtwide certification at the start of this school year. U-46 has continued to be a leader in the region, offering support and guidance to area districts looking to implement the program in their own schools.

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