Cedar Valley Daily Times: Project Lead the Way Thriving at Vinton-Shellsburg High School

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following story was provided by Vinton-Shellsburg High School.

VINTON — Project Lead the Way (PLTW) grew by 23 percent in 2009 thanks to enthusiastic students and parents, dedicated teachers and administrators, and financial support from school boards, industry, community colleges and the state. An innovative middle and high school curriculum that blends science, technology, engineering and math, PLTW is now available in 100 Iowa schools.

Locally, the program has been offered at Vinton-Shellsburg High School since the 2008-09 school year. Currently 58 students are enrolled in the program at the school. Vinton-Shellsburg High School has been recognized by the program for its high quality pre-engineering program.

David G. Rethwisch, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa and affiliate director of Project Lead the Way Iowa, said that Vinton-Shellsburg High School has demonstrated its commitment to the quality standards of the PLTW program by having a teacher of pre-engineering trained during the summer and by teaching the PLTW courses using the latest computer software. Rethwisch recognized the district’s commitment to teacher and counselor ongoing training during the school year.

“A crucial element to the success of the program is regularly updating teacher skills and promoting counselor awareness of the latest PLTW initiatives for students,” he said.

“It is with great enthusiasm that Vinton-Shellsburg High School continues to strive to reform the face of education,” Vinton-Shellsburg High School Principal Kirk Johnson said. “The 21st century teaching and learning that is taking place in our PLTW classroom during the past two school years has been a positive addition to our high school.”

In 2009, PLTW enrolled 11,188 Iowa middle and high school students. That is up from 9,096 students in 2008 and 6,856 in 2007. Business and state education leaders hope to continue this expansion during 2010, as enrollment since the program’s start in 2005 has steadily increased due to the collaborative efforts of schools, public and private organizations and the business community.

Additionally, Iowa’s Department of Economic Development, Department of Education and the state’s 15 community colleges have teamed up to fuel program growth and work in concert on implementation funding in high schools. Through partnerships formed with PLTW schools, business and industry across the state have generously supported Iowa schools to ensure the PLTW curriculum reaches more students each year.

PLTW has also found support from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, which allow high-achieving high school students to secure college credit for selected PLTW courses, providing added incentive for students to participate in PLTW. In addition, both institutions offer professional development for teachers as part of the PLTW program.

Experience in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is vital to students as they enter college and the workforce. With more than half of the engineers and scientists in the United States nearing retirement, technical industries are in desperate need of workers to fill the positions responsible for innovation and economic growth. According to U.S. government data, job openings requiring expertise in STEM will increase by 18.3 percent through 2014.

V-S HS Principal Johnson continued, “We are extremely thankful for the generous partnerships and support that we have received to benefit V-S HS students. The increase in enrollment in PLTW shows the steadfast commitment of schools to meet the learning needs of high school students. We believe V-S HS is at the forefront of providing high quality learning opportunities for young people.”

About Project Lead the Way

Created in response to the expected 15 million engineer and technical worker shortage (according to U.S. Government estimates) in the U.S. by the year 2015, PLTW helps students apply academic engineering and technology concepts in compelling, real-world ways. The program has established partnerships with schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

General information about PLTW can be found at www.pltw.org, while state-specific information is located at www.pltwiowa.org. At these websites, school leaders interested in initiating PLTW at their schools may learn more about the program. Additional information may be obtained by contacting Roger Utman at roger.utman@iowa.gov or 515-281-8260.