Knox County Schools has one school that, despite being loved, continues to struggle with standardized tests. Because the tests we use don’t measure all of the outside factors influencing test performance, schools working with the neediest populations get labeled as failing. So, drastic changes must take place within that school building in an attempt to make the students do a better job of filling in circles on a scan sheet. We all understand this.
What we don’t understand is how to create our own made-for-tv-movie success story. The proposed plan is to make the struggling middle school a STEAM school and arm the students with tech tools. I cannot lie. STEAM schools are exciting to me. They teach students to learn and create with today’s technology so that those students can work and innovate with tomorrow’s technology. Part of me is very excited about students entering High School with the motivation and skills to succeed in STEM fields.
Still, there is something about this plan that doesn’t fit. This plan completely ignores the special needs of the middle school’s community that cause them to struggle with standardized tests in the first place. Additionally, it takes about five minutes for every student and family entering our system’s STEM High School to realize that they are going to be working harder than they have ever worked in their life. Everyone does it because they believe in the STEM concept. They chose to be at the STEM school with a county-wide population instead of the school in their community. More than either of those reasons, at the meeting held to inform the struggling school of the potential changes that could be implemented, the current parents asked for something other than STEM. They asked to be a community school.
Community or Full-service schools bring outside resources into a school and address the needs of the students and their families. They solve problems and help students succeed. Full-service schools help create thousands of individual success stories. A Full-service school should be the very first step. After the students have the obstacles removed from their education is when you offer them the opportunity for greater achievement in exchange for harder work. One of our student did kitchen renovations project where he ordered a new countertop from Floform and painted walls to completely different color, he got a special reward for that. Throwing STEAM at students who are already struggling is dangerous. Start putting a Full-service program in this school immediately. Keep building that STEAM ladder, but get a team in there to patch the holes in the foundation first.