And the winners are ...

Here are Tennessee schools winning TVA funding for STEM projects

PHOTO: Creative Commons / amylovesyah

Eighteen Tennessee schools have won a combined $60,000 in grants for STEM-related class projects and equipment, the competition’s sponsors announced Thursday.

The schools won the fourth annual STEM classroom grant competition held by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The competition received more than 375 submissions.

STEM is an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to learning science, technology, engineering and math. The Tennessee STEM Innovation Network was founded in 2011 as a partnership of the Tennessee Department of Education and Battelle Education, a nonprofit research organization, to expand STEM learning across the state.

Among the winning projects are explorations into alternative energy, traffic safety, and science in agriculture. Some schools also received funding for STEM equipment including microscopes, computers, tablets and physics kits.

The winning projects are:

  • Bluff City Elementary School, Bluff City, “Teaming up for STEM, elementary math/science,” $5,000
  • Bradford Special School District, Bradford, “Bradford Special School District Middle School Science Lab,” $2,500
  • Celina K-8, Celina, “Teaming up for STEM,” $5,000
  • Cleveland High School, Cleveland, “The physics of imaging,” $1,000
  • Clinton Middle School, Clinton, “Hands-on science through inquiry,” $1,000
  • Columbia Central High School, Columbia, “Physics and physical science in traffic safety,” $5,000
  • Dorothy & Nobel Harrelson School, Puryear, “Water quality study,” $5,000
  • East Chester Elementary School, Henderson, FOSS science kits, $5,000
  • Goodpasture Christian School, Madison, “Hands-on science instruction for all,” $5,000
  • Kenwood High School STEM Academy, Clarksville, “Alternative energy,” $5,000
  • Livingston Academy, Livingston, “Livingston Academy STEM initiative,” $5,000
  • Madisonville Middle School, Madisonville, outdoor classroom and greenhouse, $5,000
  • North Greene High School, Greeneville, “Project Provide for scientific inquiry,” $1,000
  • Park View Elementary, Cleveland, “STEM play project,” $1,000
  • Pathways Alternative School, Rogersville, equipment for the STEM classroom, $2,500
  • Ridgeway Middle School, Memphis, Science Olympiad, $1,000
  • STEM School Chattanooga, Chattanooga, FabLab Innovations, $2,500
  • West Side School, Readyville, “Coding, programming, and STEM: Oh my!”, $2,500

Playing around

These Detroit student activists wrote a play about the recent political turmoil in city schools. Watch it here.

Students in the 482Forward youth organizing collective perform a play about recent events in Detroit schools.

It’s been a nerve-wracking year in Detroit education, with state officials threatening to shutter two dozen city schools for years of low test scores, then backing off closures in favor of “partnership agreements.”

It’s all been very complicated, which is why a group of Detroit students wrote and performed a play about recent events in the city schools.

Called “Fork in the Road: Succeeding with us or failing without us,” the play was staged for an audience earlier this month at a church on the city’s east side. It was performed by the youth arm of 482Forward, a citywide education organizing network.

“It was their idea to do the play,” said Molly Sweeney, 482Forward’s director of organizing. The students involved wrote and performed the play, she said. “Given all the chaos in the city and everything being so confusing, this was a way of explaining the partnership agreements in a fun and interactive way.”

The play features a student who receives messages from the future via Snapchat that warns of dire consequences if students, parents and teachers are not involved in the work of turning around struggling schools.

Watch it here:

Fork in the road 1 from 482forward on Vimeo.

Building Better Schools

Training overhaul aimed at a big IPS shortfall: Just 1 in 4 student teachers stick around.

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Seventy-four student teachers trained in Indianapolis Public Schools last year. But just 17 of those freshly minted educators were hired by the district after they graduated.

In a district where some schools struggle to hire enough teachers, that gap is a problem.

That’s why IPS is revamping teacher training to give student teachers more time in the classroom and attract new educators to the district.

“We really need to focus in on the folks who are student teaching in our buildings, making sure they have a really strong experience,” said Mindy Schlegel, who leads human resources for the district.

In order to attract new teachers and make sure they are well prepared, IPS is rolling out a host of plans, from making sure student teachers in traditional programs are working with experienced mentors to launching two new residency programs.

The residencies, which will be selective, will allow students to spend one to three years in the classroom — far more than the six to nine weeks education students typically spend teaching, said Schlegel.

Those plans are among three programs getting a boost from a new grant program run by the Mind Trust, a nonprofit that supports Indianapolis school reform.

  • IPS received a three-year, $207,000 grant to pay for a staffer dedicated to improving student teaching in the district;
  • KIPP Indianapolis received a three-year, $38,500 grant for a new yearlong leadership program for current teachers; and
  • Christel House Academy received a $20,000 grant to plan IndyTeach, a transition-to-teaching program at the charter school that it plans to pilot in 2017-2018.

The program will support new efforts to improve teacher recruitment, training, retention and diversity, said Jackie Gantzer, director of talent strategy for the Mind Trust.

“A lot of the best solutions to any one of those pieces is likely going to be developed and driven locally by schools and networks and the teachers who are in that environment,” she said. “We are really interested in testing those hypotheses and seeing what is effective and what can potentially be scaled.”

IPS plans to begin the first teaching residency this fall, with about 10 students from Purdue University’s online degree program in special education. The students will train in IPS schools during the three-year program.

The other residency is still in the planning stages, but the aim is to assign college students to work with experienced teachers in schools using new teacher-leadership models.

One reason the district is focusing its attention on improving recruitment of student teachers is that it is hard to attract educators from other areas, Schlegel said.

“A lot of urban districts are moving in this direction because it is so difficult to get teachers to relocate,” she said. “(We) are really refocusing our recruitment efforts to what local pipelines exist.”