The high school has struggled with decreasing test scores over the last few years due in part to an increasingly transient population resulting from a sagging economy and lack of jobs, explained Elaine Wood, STEM coordinator.
“Something had to be done to restructure,” she said.
What was done was making application to the state for a school improvement grant with goals to raise math test scores by 10 percent and English by 5 percent.
Using the $6 million, three-year grant, the high school has developed a science, technology, engineering and mathematics “theme school,” which is in the infancy stage of becoming a full-fledged STEM magnet school by 2015.
“The goal is to achieve STEM certification from the state,” Principal Garrick Askew told the Lithia Springs High School STEM Advisory Board at its Jan. 25 meeting. “The goal is to establish a ‘school within a school.’”
He explained “the goal is to have all high schools come into Lithia Springs upon STEM certification and go from theme status to magnet status.”
The STEM advisory board is made up of educators, community and business leaders representing a number of science and technology fields throughout the community.
The advisory board chairman is Julian Carter, chief executive officer of the Douglas County College and Career Institute.
According to Wood, the STEM program began operation after the award of the school improvement grant, and was implemented this year.
The STEM program continues to evolve. The school is planning to move forward with a STEM Academy for the 2013-14 school year, not unlike the International Baccalaureate program in place at Douglas County High School.
“We have a ton of things to offer students,” said Wood, ranging from STEM pathways that include engineering, digital electronics, computer integrated manufacturing and a rigorous biomedical science program that advances students into college-level work.
“We want STEM to influence the whole student and develop problem-solving skills school-wide,” she added.
Although it is still too early for the hard data to determine if test scores have increased, predictor scores showing where the high school is now compared to last year is promising — particularly in math, Wood said.
“Changing a school culture is like turning a ship,” said Wood. “It is very slow.”