For the 2015-16 school year, Pratt High School students may be signing up for classes in engineering or biomedicine and redesigned math classes to align with the new science classes.
At Monday’s USD 382 Board of Education meeting, Curriculum Director David Schmidt spoke of the need to look at math and science courses in terms of “where do we want to be five years from now,” keeping in mind the district’s mission to prepare students who are college-ready or professionally certified and ready for gainful employment.
He presented some figures related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers:
• STEM jobs account for 21 percent of careers — careers, not jobs, he stressed.
• The average salary for STEM-related careers is $60,000, compared to $33,000 for non-STEM careers.
• Twelve percent of STEM jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree.
Pratt High students are interested in careers requiring STEM preparation, as indicated by responses by tenth graders on a Career Cruiser survey.
• Forty percent are interested in art, audiovisual, technology and communications fields.
• Twenty-eight percent marked health and human services.
• Fifteen percent would like a career in architecture or construction.
• Twelve percent are interested in agriculture, food and natural resources.
All require some degree of knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math, Schmidt said.
Discussion of possible curriculum changes is taking place this summer among Schmidt and PHS teachers Rita Phillippi and Heath Sharp, and will probably involve other staff members when school resumes. The district will take a year to examine options and “figure out what’s going to work best for us and for our kids,” Schmidt said.
He described two pathways for science classes: engineering or biomedicine
In the engineering pathway, classes for the first two years could be introduction to engineering design and principles of engineering. Options for the third year course include aerospace engineering, civil engineering, computer science and software, digital electronics or engineering design and development.
The biomedical pathway begins with principles of biomedical science and human body systems, with medical interventions, biomedical innovation or biological engineering as a possible third-year course.
The other half of the equation, Schmidt said, is aligning the math curriculum to match up to the new science courses. Classes might not carry the familiar algebra I, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry and pre-calculus designations, but include parts of all classes in a single year. A challenge, Schmidt said, would be meeting Board of Regents requirements that students complete specific classes.
Current classes are general; potential new classes would be more specific. They would also be more rigorous, he said, but more relevant to students’ interests and future plans.
“We hope by making it more relevant they will get more out of them,” Schmidt said, and quoting science teacher Heath Sharp: “learn the process of science better and be able to apply it in multiple settings.”
The district would apply for a $20,000 grant to help pay for a major change in curriculum. Schmidt indicated that if a change is made, it will be “for the long haul, not short term.”
Discussion will take place about whether to make project-based classes electives, or the format for the science and mathematics curriculum.
No changes in the science and math curricula will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.