News Release

Published on Friday, August 28, 2009

Western Technical College is one of the partners in a consortium of local K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, and businesses that recently received grant to help increase student achievement in math and science.

The Western Wisconsin STEM Consortium developed a three-year project called “SySTEMically Improving Students Achievement in Mathematics and Science.” The project was funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and amounts to $602,700 for the first two years; the third year is contingent upon performance.

Members of the consortium include the school districts of Bangor, Black River Falls, Cashton, LaFarge, Mauston, Melrose-Mindoro, Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton, Royall, and Sparta; the University of Wisconsin-Stout; Western Technical College; and several western Wisconsin business partners, including the 7 Rivers Region Alliance in La Crosse, Juneau County Economic Development Corp. in Camp Douglas, Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston, and Organic Valley in LaFarge.

The project is designed to improve student achievement in math and science by improving teacher’s content knowledge and teaching skills in both subjects.

Teacher survey data reveals that high percentages of teachers completed minimal coursework in math and science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and are not emphasizing math and science standards in their classrooms. In addition, according to student achievement data, significant numbers of students are not scoring at or above the proficiency level in these two subjects.

“Although we believe strongly in the quality of our teachers and our academic programs, our districts understand that we need to do more to raise the achievement level of our students, particularly in the areas of math and science,” said John Hendricks, superintendent of the Sparta Area District School District, who is serving as the lead superintendent for the grant. “We also need to substantially increase the interest level of students in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM], particularly in the formative years of elementary school.”

One of the components of the grant project will be a two-week STEM Summer Academy, to be held at Western Technical College’s La Crosse Campus. Faculty members from UW-Stout and Western will provide instruction to 60 elementary, middle, and high school teachers to strengthen K-12 teaching and learning strategies in math and science. Follow-up activities will be conducted through professional development seminars, peer coaching, and career-cluster teams. Business partners will play a significant role in the project by providing real-world contexts in the career clusters.

“It’s not easy to bring about meaningful change in education,” said Hendricks. “Fortunately, we believe we have in the Western Wisconsin STEM Consortia, a critical mass of professionals, organizations, ideas, and resources that will bring about the type of change that is required if we are going to improve student learning and interest in math and science in Western Wisconsin. Our future depends on it.”