$4.6 Million STEM Ed Grant to Help Expand Feeder Program

The Richardson Independent School District (RISD) is expanding a successful STEM education program for more than 10,000 students with the help of a $4.6-million grant from a private partner.

The program is based on an earlier feeder pattern initiative begun at the district's Berkner High School, dubbed STEM Academy, that offered three different career strands in STEM fields, including engineering robotics, aeronautical engineering and biotechnology. With the help of the grant, the district will add two new strands, cybersecurity and STEM management, beginning next year.

The grant comes from Texas Instruments and will be disbursed over three years to Educate Texas to help develop the district's STEM for All concept, which aims to embed STEM education and experiences into learning from pre-K through graduation. To implement the STEM for All concept, grant funds will be used to:

  • Offer professional development for teachers, including professional education for teaching STEM through project-based learning, support from STEM education coaches and the possibility of earning master's degrees;
  • Improve student engagement through project-based learning, STEM clubs, competitions and community outreach and engagement related to STEM;
  • Adopt a contextual-based curriculum and instruction designed to focus on college and career readiness while expanding opportunities such as advanced placement and dual-credit coursework; and
  • Cooperate with partners in higher ed and industry to insure the relevance and sustainability of the program.

To track the efficacy of the program, the district plans to monitor the success of components in various ways, including tracking the number of teachers with advanced degrees in STEM, student passing rates in the state's standardized assessments, any change in existing achievement gaps for student demographic groups and the increase in number of AP courses offered by Berkner, among others.

"RISD is committed to changing the culture within the Berkner feeder pattern through STEM-infused curriculum that ensures academic rigor, student engagement and relevancy across the entire pre-K-12 curriculum," said Jeannie Stone, superintendent of RISD, in a prepared statement. "STEM is not something we do, it's who we are, which is why RISD strives to inspire our students from their very first day of school to explore and cultivate their interests to pursue a career pathway through a STEM culture."

The grant follows on the success of an earlier grant from TI to the Lancaster ISD for a similar project in 2012.

"When we began to work with the TI Foundation and Lancaster ISD in 2012 to create a STEM district, we expected the successes and outcomes of LISD to serve as a rigorous STEM learning and teaching model that could be scaled to other Texas school districts," said George Tang, managing director of Educate Texas, in a prepared statement. "We're thrilled that the original expectation is now being realized with Richardson ISD. This opportunity allows us to extend our impact to the lives of 10,000-plus students and ultimately inspire and prepare them for great futures."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.