Union Schools to Expand Access to STEM Programs for K-12 Students

June 6, 2015 - Union Public Schools has announced a $750,000 gift that will allow the district to expand access to its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for students in grades K-12. The grant will allow the district to quadruple the number of students enrolled in STEM programs from approximately 4,000 students in 2014-15 to nearly all of its 16,000 students in 2017-18.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation granted $500,000 to Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of STEM programs, to support PLTW in Union Public Schools. In addition to the $500,000 gift, the foundation has committed up to $250,000 in matching funds. Union will work with PLTW to secure the matching funds.

A robust STEM curriculum for all students in grades K-12 is one of Union Public Schools’ four strategic initiatives – early childhood, community schools, STEM, and college/career readiness. PLTW will administer the grant over three years, in alignment with the district’s STEM expansion initiative.

“At Union, we believe that a high-caliber K-12 STEM curriculum uniquely prepares students with the rigorous content, problem-solving abilities, and communication strategies that are essential for success beyond high school,” said Dr. Kathy Dodd, Union Associate Superintendent.

“PLTW has been a great fit for us because it combines rich content with a highly collaborative methodology that mimics the work of scientists, inventors, and artists. Because of the high level of engagement that results from the problem-based lessons, students truly enjoy struggling with more rigorous content expectations. It’s taught us an important lesson that when students experience how the content is applied in the real world, they are more likely to display the persistence that leads to deeper and more meaningful understanding. We are excited about what the future holds for our students, teachers, and community as we become more intentional in building workforce capacity in the Tulsa area.”

Union Public Schools offers PLTW at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. In 2014-15, four elementary schools offered the PLTW Launch program to 2,400 students in grades K-5; beginning in sixth grade, Union takes PLTW’s middle school program – PLTW Gateway – and creates a seamless transition into PLTW’s three high school pathways – PLTW Engineering, PLTW Biomedical Science, and PLTW Computer Science.

This past year more than 1,500 students at the middle school level and more than 500 students at the high school level were enrolled in these PLTW pathways. In 2015-16, more than 7,500 students will be involved district wide.

“We commend Union Public Schools for its commitment to high-quality STEM education and for making Project Lead The Way available for all students in the district,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, President and Chief Executive Officer of Project Lead The Way. “Through the support of the district, the Schusterman Family Foundation, and the greater community, Union Public Schools is a true leader in the effort to prepare students for the challenges of the global economy.”

The Schusterman Family Foundation’s multi-year commitment in support of Union’s PLTW programming is part of the Foundation’s broader efforts to increase access to quality STEM opportunities for all students in the Tulsa region. For the past three years, the Foundation has invested in PLTW programming at Union, Tulsa Public Schools, and Broken Arrow Schools.

“A STEM education empowers students to develop critical problem-solving skills and prepares them to succeed in a global 21st century marketplace,” said Dennis Neill, Senior Program Officer for the Schusterman Family Foundation. “We are proud to support Union Public Schools’ vision to improve teaching and learning through STEM education and believe that the partnership with PLTW will result in high levels of engagement and achievement among the district’s 16,000 students. Importantly, it will also serve as a model for what can be achieved by a district with dedicated leadership committed to supporting well-trained teachers and providing a best-in-class STEM curriculum.”

Through PLTW’s hands-on, project-based STEM curriculum, students learn to apply math and science to real-world situations, developing problem-solving, critical-thinking,communication, and teamwork skills that 21st century employers identify as critical. PLTW also offers instructors quality, in-person training and ongoing professional development opportunities.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports nationwide employment in STEM jobs is expected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022, but an estimated 1.2 million jobs in STEM fields will be unfilled by 2018 due to a lack of skilled workers. Oklahoma is expected to add nearly 20,000 STEM-related positions by 2024.

The 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress – often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card – shows that not enough students are prepared to take these new STEM jobs, with only 26 percent and 21 percent of high school seniors scoring proficient in math and science, respectively.

By expanding PLTW programs to more schools and increasing capacity at existing schools, Union plans to give all students in the district the knowledge and skills they will need to take advantage of the high-demand, high-salary careers in STEM fields.

About Union Public Schools

Known for its tradition, spirit and pride, Union Public Schools is a premiere Oklahoma district serving 16,000 students who live in southeast Tulsa and northwest Broken Arrow. Its 19 school sites include an early childhood education center for 3-year-olds, 13 elementary schools (PreK-5th), separate grade centers for 6/7th, 8th, and 9th graders; a High School (10th-12th), and an alternative school. The district motto, “Together We Make a Difference,” explains the important role everyone – from students and parents, to staff and the community – plays in fulfilling Union’s mission of graduating 100% of its students, 100 % college and/or career ready. Families choose Union for its personalized instruction; award-winning academics, fine arts, and athletic programs; outstanding facilities; excellent teachers; supportive community; and highly respected leaders.

About PLTW

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. PLTW’s world-class, activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development model, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, help students develop the skills needed to succeed in our global economy. More than 6,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia currently offer PLTW courses to their students. For more information, visit www.pltw.org.

About Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is a global organization committed to strengthening the Jewish people and Israel, public education in the United States, and the quality of life in its hometown of Tulsa. The Foundation’s multi-faceted investments in Tulsa are primarily focused in the areas of child protection, youth development, K-12 public education, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming and outreach.