By Matt Frankenbery / January 25, 2017

Every student can succeed

“The only constant is change.” Nothing could be more true in the world of an educator! As we say goodbye to 2016, we’re also preparing to say goodbye to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and hello to its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in 2017. Overall, ESSA will give states greater control over their education policy, which most see as a positive move. No matter the state, the impact of ESSA will create a stronger focus on well-rounded learning for every child, college and career readiness, and high-quality education.

At Pitsco, we’re ready to welcome 2017 and ESSA. We've always developed curriculum with every child in mind, so we have a great deal of confidence ESSA supports the types of solutions Pitsco has historically provided.

One area this is evident in is our new elementary Missions, a student-centered, hands-on STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and math) program that meets every student at his or her reading level. The interdisciplinary nature of Missions allows for literacy to come into play within a science curriculum.

Career readiness is a focus even at the elementary level, with our Missions placing students in real-world scenarios and applying STREAM concepts in a meaningful way. Students are exposed to a unique set of four careers in every Mission, delivered in the Career Connections, which also include additional activities that the teacher can choose to have students complete. For example, in the Space Exploration Career Connection, students explore the careers of astronaut, military serviceperson, airport personnel, and travel agent. They are asked to complete several activities, including defining the qualities that they would need to be successful in that job, what they would or would not like about the job, training requirements, similar jobs, and naming someone they know or a famous person with this job.

At the middle grades, our recent development has focused on our STEM Expeditions®, which also embrace the new ESSA guidelines. Like Missions, STEM Expeditions provide high quality, well-rounded education in a collaborative hands-on, student-centered format. In STEM Expeditions, students use the engineering design process and develop deep critical-thinking skills in an integrated science and technology context. The real-world challenges engage students and align with ESSA college- and career-readiness guidelines.

Story media elements put students in the career roles they study in Expeditions as they navigate design problems that we know actually arise on job sites. We include career connections in every STEM Expedition, building on the strong career and technology education (CTE) focus Pitsco has always offered. Students are given a list of jobs related to the Expedition they are experiencing to get an idea of the fields they could enter. To add more regional flexibility, students are also asked to research jobs and salaries in their area. This practical application gives the students a better idea of certain fields in their region before graduation so they can begin to plan the type of schooling they'll need and where they might attend school.

As a STEM teacher in a changing political climate, you might be concerned about how this will play out in the classroom, and from the conversations I've had with educators, you’re not alone.

One of the initial bright spots with the ESSA legislation is that it allocates funds for STEM programs under Title IV, Part A. According to the fact sheet, ESSA will include a flexible block grant program known as Student Support and Enrichment Grants (SSAEG), which is authorized at $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017. The first area of focus is "providing students with a well-rounded education, including programs such as college and career counseling, STEM, arts, civics and International Baccalaureate/Advanced Placement." Each state will receive an allocation from the flexible block grant based on the Title 1 funding formula. Using the same Title I formula, states will then allocate funds to school districts.

So, whether or not you feel ready for this next period of change, we can see the benefits and we’re ready for it. Every product we create can be successfully implemented for every child in your room. Programs such as our Missions and Expeditions enable students to be creators of their own work as they fulfill their role as designers. For example, in the Electric Tech Expedition, students answer the Essential Question, "What is the best way to wire a circuit?" To develop their answers, students engineer a stage lighting circuit for a stage performance. This type of open-ended inquiry creates real-world opportunities for students to learn from failure and improve upon their designs.

We realize that "one size fits all" doesn't make sense when it comes to students. Your classrooms are filled with diverse students of varying needs. Some might be considering college, while others are looking at CTE programs. We've always designed our curriculum to meet the needs of students on any path, so we're excited to see that the guidelines and funding behind ESSA support STEM educators and programs such as ours. Be sure to check out our grants page and keep an eye on our website and social media for more ESSA updates.

TOPICS: IN THE CLASSROOM, Middle School, Elementary School, ADMINISTRATION & THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Matt Frankenbery

Written by Matt Frankenbery

I got my start in education as a middle school teacher, co-owned Duct Tape Learning, and currently serve as the Vice President of Education at Pitsco. I oversee the creation of customer value, which gives me a chance to travel a lot, meet educators all over the U.S., and work with several teams at Pitsco.