District-Wide Implementation: Tips on Getting Started
Ben Fobert is the principal at Mountain House High School in the Lammersville Unified School District in Mountain House, California. Ben is a blended-learning aficionado, new-school starter, and performing arts and social studies nut.
After working diligently to unify our elementary school district and starting our first high school, Lammersville Unified School District identified PLTW as our venue for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. As we planned our high school program, we decided to offer all three pathways of PLTW curriculum – computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. Simultaneously, we also decided to begin piloting the middle school PLTW Gateway program to assist students in developing skills and discovering their areas of interest.
Two years later, our high school is running a robust PLTW program in all three PLTW pathways, and our middle schools are implementing PLTW Gateway units such as Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics, and Medical Detectives. Our elementary program has also begun to pilot the PLTW Launch program. Students are participating in newly developed pathways that have articulation between elementary school, middle school, and high school, and now are articulating pathways for students at the local community college.
Project Lead The Way has helped our teaching faculty gain the skills and background they need and has provided pathways for our students to follow their passion for content in STEM fields.
For others who are seeking to implement PLTW programs in their district, it is essential that you start with support from your community and governing board members. Establish clear goals for the move toward project-based curriculum and instruction, and communicate with stakeholders about what that means in all aspects of the implementation. Look at the implementation as a catalyst for instructional change in all areas of instruction, which can assist in getting support from innovation-minded teachers who are looking for ways to truly engage students in the learning and discovery experiences; this is essential to success, as well. Ensure that all involved understand that the financial implications for a rollout of PLTW can be significant, but emphasize that the dedication of funds can actually meet your goals in multiple areas of educational change and is worth the investment. Finally, embrace the ambiguity of implementing a new program and reward students, teachers, administrators, and parents who support the program, which can help to establish a strong base for a district-wide rollout.
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