What an exciting month I’ve had working with various groups in the state of Illinois! This month at the Mathematics and Science Partnership conference in Illinois I had the pleasure of hearing more about federal initiatives as Stephen Pruitt discussed the Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.nextgenscience.org/) and Jere Confrey discussed the implementation of Common Core Math Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics). In conjunction with thinking about standards, I also was intrigued to hear the updates on the PARCC (http://www.parcconline.org/parcc-assessment) and Smarter Balanced (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/) performance assessments that are slated to pilot during the 2012-2013 academic year for full implemetnation in 2014-2015.
Although the reauthorization of ESEA appears to be in perpetual limbo, clearly the field is marching forward on some very important initiatives. An exciting intersection of STEM, Common Core, and Next Generation Science Standards is the Perkins Career Cluster and Programs of Study (http://cte.ed.gov/nationalinitiatives/localstudyimplementation.cfm). As educators and reformers have worked to bring to scale the implementation of instruction where students are given opportunities to use the tools of STEM disciplines to solve authentic problems, the Career Clusters provide an excellent conceptual framework to organize and shape the secondary education experience for our nation’s high school students. Alignment of secondary curriculum with the career clusters provides students with a path through their high school education that is more purposeful, provides opportunities for collaboration with local industry, and access to technology in real-world experiences.
The key to the successful transition from the traditional high school model to a rigorous STEM oriented high school requires leaders to build and sustain collaborative relationships with local industry, transition staff from isolated departments to active professional learning communities, and plan with all relevant stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, faculty, industry) for the structural changes in policies and curriculum to support a new way of operating at the secondary level.
Of course, the reforms at the secondary level will provide a roadmap for the needed reforms and articulation at the elementary and middle school levels. Illinois has kick-started these reforms with the policy infrastructure provided by through the Race to the Top STEM Learning Exchanges (http://www.isbe.net/funding_opps/htmls/rfsp.htm) and Illinois Worknet (http://www.illinoisworknet.com). It will be exciting to see how the initiative unfolds in Illinois and nationally as the critical need for STEM workforce development has never been more evident (http://www.ndia.org/Divisions/Divisions/STEM/Pages/default.aspx).
What an exciting time to be an educator!