How Arkansas Schools Are Preparing Students for College and Career Opportunities

Over two hundred educators, administrators, and policymakers gathered for the Arkansas Computer Science Summit at Arkansas Tech University on Oct. 20 to learn and share knowledge about computer science education. One message was clear: This work matters for students.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that U.S. employers will need more than 9 million STEM-related workers by the year 2022. Virtually every industry will require employees with the problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills that are transportable across sectors.  

Star City Public Schools is one district in Arkansas that is committed to doing whatever it takes to prepare students for these opportunities. The district offers full K-12 PLTW Engineering, Biomedical Science, and Computer Science pathways at Jimmy Brown Elementary, Star City Middle School, and Star City High School. Students have access to engaging, hands-on learning experiences that are making a real difference for their lives.

PLTW alumnus Kacee Daniels graduated from Star City High School in 2015 and is studying biochemistry and leadership studies at Baylor University.

“My experience with PLTW solidified my interest in my pursuit of medicine, and specifically biochemistry, because it gave me a taste of a more hands-on and involved approach to a field I had expressed interest in, but was unable to experience tangibly in my regular classes,” he said.

Daniels said that his PLTW classes not only gave him hands-on experience, but also provided him with a head start in his college classes.

“As far as preparation, it was an absolute competitive advantage coming into college,” he said. “My freshman year general biology class, and even the first few chapters of my genetics class this year as a sophomore, felt like review because of what I'd learned in my three PLTW courses in high school.”

PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram opened the event and highlighted the great work happening in the state around this urgent issue, especially the work happening at Star City.

“The schools, cities, and states that get this right will win,” he said during his keynote address. “Our students need to understand the amazing opportunities available to them when they have a skillset that is in high demand.”

Between 2014 and 2024, jobs in computer science will grow by 14 percent in Arkansas, while all others will grow by 8 percent. The skills needed to access those jobs will allow students to choose their future.

Stay current on Vince’s travels – and the latest in education and workforce development news – by following him on Twitter at @VinceBertram.