New Directions in STEM Education for Harford County Public Schools
By 2009, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) had become a major area of focus in education. Numerous international reports pointed to a decline in participation and performance of U.S. students in science and mathematics, and increased demand for people with STEM degrees. At the same time that student participation was falling, demand for STEM workers was rising, particularly in northeastern Maryland where a thriving research and development community had taken root.
The region was in the midst of a demographic shift that was fundamentally changing the economy of the region from agricultural to one based increasingly on science and technology development. Harford County Public Schools is responsible for educating almost 40,000 students in northeastern Maryland. While Harford County had been offering STEM education programs for years, school leaders wanted to ensure that its programs aligned with the requirements of this new regional economy. Because of its experience leading strategic planning exercises in government settings, Profile Partners was chosen to partner with Harford County Public Schools to develop a roadmap for STEM education.
First, the school system needed formal input from the local science and technology community. To this end, Profile Partners created a 20-person STEM Education Advisory Board made up of leaders from government, industry, and higher education, which provided guidance to the school system as it revamped its STEM educational programs. The STEM Advisory Board helped the school system identify issues and trends in workforce, higher education, and in STEM practices that may impact STEM education in Harford County through 2020. This information was used by Harford County Public Schools as a basis for developing its 10-year STEM Education Strategic Plan. Once the STEM Advisory Board completed its input, Profile Partners helped the school system form an internal STEM Working Group. This group was made up of content and functional supervisors in the school system and was charged with developing the STEM Education Strategic Plan.
As of this writing, the school system is in its sixth year of implementation of the strategic plan and students are greatly benefiting from an expanded suite of STEM education offerings. Through this process, the school system was able to identify its highest priorities and make rapid progress on offering challenging STEM coursework to all students in Harford County. The plan also guides the county’s grant request process and informs decision-making to install programs as resources are available. During this time, the school system has established new partnerships with the science and technology industry, resulting in millions of dollars of new grants for STEM programs.