Very importantly, we would also like to continue to share out our "BIG 3," to help all families vested in their son and/or daughter's education at STEM, understand what we are all about. The three (3) main tenants that we hold very near and dear to our core-values, each and every single day, along with our Mission & Vision at the Waukesha STEM Academy are:
1). Proficiency-Based Pathways: Students are able to enter at different places in their educational pathway and move at different paces, based on their respective readiness-level.
2). STEM-Centered Learning Environments: The who, what, when, where, why and how of being at a STEM School, should be seen, heard and understood by everyone who shares learning experiences at our sites and it is not just a time of the day, or a period or class on a Friday afternoon... IT IS THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS.
3). Apply, Apply, Apply: Students are not just becoming masters of content, but experts in context, who can not only solve real-world problems, but can come up with solutions that are unique, ground-breaking and serve as change-agents to help make our world a more efficient, productive and safe place to live in... we are growing citizens who are leaders.
In order to support these tenants, we have included the following description with our latest S-3 video on YouTube (click for video link), but felt that it was important to also highlight the description in our Blog, for all STEM students and families to truly and fully understand :
This video will provide a brief overview of the flow and rationale behind our S-3 sessions, and our Facilitator Reflection Sessions for the upcoming Conference Season. We will also review our Proficiency-Based Pathways purpose and procedures, which delve a bit deeper into the "deadline vs. due-date" concept and how we are helping students move into a zone of being able to focus on their latest work and learning targets at hand, so their progress does not consistently get held back, by focusing on late work, from weeks or months ago, which will inevitably hinder their ability to move forward. They are still responsible for completing and demonstrating mastery of these [past-due] standards, but they will have alternative options for demonstrating mastery of these standards, as well as a timeline in which to do so, if they are to move on to the next level and complete (at the very least) 6-8th grade standards, prior to advancing to High School.
We are currently building a "Road-Map" of sorts for all students, staff and parents, so that everyone is on the same page and the expectations are 100% clear and transparent, of what needs to be completed and accomplished for/by a student, to move on and "pass" on to the next phase of their academic career... High School. Since we look at a student's experience at STEM - Saratoga as a 3-Year journey (540 days of amazing learning opportunities), a component that needs to be clearly understood by all involved parties of a Proficiency-Based System, is that the intent behind this program model, is that students are entering our program at different places and moving at different paces and that this system has been built to support this flexible learning via different modalities of application. What it has not been built to support, is the student who decides that they are simply going to decide when they want to do the independent practice, labs, projects or assessments and possibly decide that they are not going to do the work at all. That is when we run into a small problem and start having a different set of conversations, about what the future of that student looks like... possible extension of their time at STEM, to complete their standards, with additional support by staff, mentors and parents (obviously, not a very popular choice by students, who would like to maintain a "passing" status, among and with their peers).
As WSA and the field of education as a whole, has continued to see the Proficiency-Based System evolve, so have the expectations, and students are very quickly beginning to understand that if they have chosen not to do the work now, they will soon need to complete that work and demonstrate mastery of those [missing] standards at a later time, such as during the summer, or the following year (again, not an optimal decision for those who wish to maintain a proper pathway among their peers). With this being spelled out very clearly for students, it is critical that they understand that they are truly the one in control of their learning pathway and that their attitude, drive and commitment to their education, will ultimately determine the timeframe in which they may effectively achieve and complete their learning goals. With weekly check-points & check-ins, along with flexible learning times such as FLEX and CONNECT, there is ample time for all students to stay in charge and on top of their workload, yet some students may still attempt and choose to side-step this responsibility, so we are helping them understand the long-term effects of these choices. This is the point in the school year (prior to the spring season), when we begin to offer and advertise our STEM Summer Academy courses (course guide coming out prior to Spring Break), which has been built for extension-opportunities, as well as a foundation to support those who need to fulfill their commitment to their learning in a middle school setting, in order to move on to High School. This can often be a difficult conversation for some students to have, if they have found themselves applying less effort than they possibly should/could have, yet a critical conversation to have.
I would always liken a Proficiency-Based Pathways system to sending a movie on an iPhone, or any other Smart Phone. We are always going to have students who are working on the extension-end of the learning continuum... whether it be because their readiness-level is higher when they entered their middle school years, or because they have worked extremely hard to advance themselves. We are also always going to have students who are in need of support, at the opposite end of the readiness-continuum, based on multiple factors and it is our job to ensure that that "iMovie" continues to move forward... not just the extension and front-end, but the back-end as well. As teachers and leaders in education who care so much about the success of our students, it is our duty to ensure that this movie continues to move forward, at both ends... the students just need to make sure that they are putting in 100% effort to do the same, because the show must go on...