PLTW Spotlight: PLTW Wisconsin State Leadership Team

Project Lead The Way and the state of Wisconsin share a decade-long history during which nearly 400 Wisconsin schools have implemented PLTW’s project- and problem-based K-12 STEM programs; a number of Wisconsin higher education institutions have partnered with PLTW to provide students with such benefits as college credit, scholarships, and more; and the Milwaukee School of Engineering has grown to become the second-largest PLTW teacher-training site in the nation.

PLTW has had a huge impact on schools across the state and has earned a great reputation, says Jason Tadlock, superintendent of the Elkhorn Area School District and member of the PLTW Wisconsin State Leadership Team.

“PLTW is unlike any other of the curriculums that I’ve seen,” Tadlock says of the rigorous, hands-on programs. “A Valedictorian student can sit side-by-side with a student who may in a traditional classroom struggle, and both can succeed.”

Tadlock goes on to say that business owners in the state – especially those in manufacturing and engineering fields – specifically seek out PLTW students for their skills and experience. Manufacturer Precision Plus is just one such example: The company offers numerous opportunities to PLTW students, including summer apprenticeships, career fairs, and even on-site PLTW capstone course instruction in the Precision Plus classroom.

The success of PLTW in Wisconsin – which is the fourth-largest PLTW state, both in terms of PLTW schools and PLTW programs – can be attributed to champions around the state, including those who serve on the PLTW Wisconsin State Leadership Team.

Recently reorganized to include eight business and industry partners, the PLTW Wisconsin State Leadership Team has a great number of projects in the pipeline, with most tied to a unified mission for the coming year: raising awareness of PLTW in the state.

The state leadership team includes representatives from several Wisconsin districts and schools, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Rockwell Automation, John Deere, PLTW, and more. To accomplish their goal, the members of the team have been busy building buy-in from state educators, engaging policymakers and public officials, and participating in STEM-awareness events like STEM Education Week.

In 2014, results related to the state leadership team’s STEM-awareness efforts include the implementation of 84 new PLTW programs in the state for the 2014-15 school year, as well as a successful Project Lead The Way-Wisconsin Legislative Day, held at the end of STEM Education Week. This event brought together more than 50 middle and high school students, who presented their STEM projects to policymakers at the Capitol Rotunda.

PLTW Wisconsin also continued to publish Wisconsin STEM Pathways – a magazine filled with student and educator spotlights, companies-in-the-classroom profiles, and Wisconsin STEM news. Since its fall 2011 debut, the magazine has been published three times per school year ­– both in print and online – to be read by audience members including PLTW students, higher education professionals, and donors/sponsors. See the most recent edition, the Fall 2014 issue, here.

Other big wins include more student opportunities from state and local business and industry, including the creation of a scholarship for PLTW students interested in engineering and the establishment of student open houses at steel manufacturing company GenMet.

Finally, PLTW Affiliate University MSOE, led by Affiliate Director and Wisconsin PLTW State Leadership Team member Joshua Schulz, trained more than 400 teachers in courses for PLTW Engineering, PLTW Biomedical Science, PLTW Computer Science, PLTW Gateway, and PLTW Launch.

These are just a few of many of the state leadership team’s efforts and successes that support the Wisconsin PLTW State Leadership Team mission, which includes “expanding STEM educational opportunities in all areas of the state, and for all student populations regardless of ethnicity, gender, or economic status.”