This blog series provides readers with insight on the valuable content that will be shared at the upcoming Career Clusters ™ Institute . Guest bloggers are among teachers, faculty, researchers and other experts that will present at the national gathering in Washington, DC in June.
Lead Presenter Greg Quam has been the Career and Technology Coordinator for the Platteville School District over the past 15 years. Quam serves on the Wisconsin Project Lead the Way State Leadership Team and is presently fulfilling the duties of chairperson, founder of the Platteville Project Lead the Way Rural School Consortium and co-founder of the Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence.
Regardless of where a student lives – be it in an urban city, suburban neighborhood or rural region – they will have to prepare for competitive, high-demand jobs. In rural areas, where schools can sometimes feel isolated, we must make significant efforts to deliver them access to important educational and training opportunities.
To address this issue, some rural districts in Wisconsin have collaborated to create the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Rural Initiative, a program in which five rural districts joined forces to provide CTE engineering courses that were thought to only be available in large districts. The initiative helped schools handle costs, teacher training and accessibility issues that a small rural district would not have been able to manage independently.
PLTW is nationally-recognized as a rigorous, project-focused program designed to prepare students in engineering. The program already had long established presence in rural areas of Wisconsin; however it was clear that plans to expand these offerings would be profoundly impacted by funding.
The Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence was formed through the collaborative efforts of the Platteville Project Lead the Way Rural School Consortium, CESA 3, and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College as a way to offer the higher level PLTW engineering courses to students who wanted to continue in the PLTW coursework. Students had access to courses that their home school were simply not able to provide.
The high schools involved in the consortium each teach two of the core level courses, but in rural schools due to small student enrollment, it was not fiscally possible to offer a higher-level class for a handful of students. However, with the Academy, students now are able to take these higher-level s engineering courses at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College on Wednesday evenings. The course is taught by the college’s engineering technology program instructor, and students are assisted with their projects by their district’s PLTW instructor and a mentor from the local business community. This model has proven very successful in delivering higher level engineering curriculum that may not otherwise be available in small, rural school districts.
Our engineering Academy began in the fall of 2009 with 12 students participating from three school districts. The Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence was selected as a national model PLTW program in 2010 for its success in promoting STEM education among small rural Wisconsin school districts. Participants will learn more about STEM and how all schools can use a consortium effort to provide quality implementation.
Presenters include Greg, who will present with Julie Pluemer, Career Prep Specialist at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore, WI; and Mary Johannesen, Project Coordinator at the Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) #3 in Fennimore, WI.
Greg can be reached at [email protected]
Ramona Schescke, Member Services Manager