City of Phoenix approves grants to build small STEM high schools

June 3, 2008

By hammersmith

The Phoenix City Council approved grants on May 28 totaling more than $5.7 million to Paradise Valley and Phoenix Union High School districts to develop small specialty high schools focusing on crucial bioscience and engineering subject areas. The grants, from the city’s 2006 Capital Improvement Program Bond, will aid the districts in opening the small schools on two existing high school campuses.

At Paradise Valley High School, a grant of $3.3 million will help to establish the Center for Rigor Relevance and Relationships in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CREST). Another $2.4 million will help launch the Medical Sciences School at Bioscience High School in downtown Phoenix.

“The educational opportunities provided by these grants will build a stronger, more educated workforce that will help Phoenix continue to build its knowledge economy,” Mayor Phil Gordon said.

Several reports, including “Building the Bioscience Pipeline,” by the Education Committee of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, have noted that the state faces serious workforce deficits in bioscience and other high-technology fields. To overcome competitive disadvantages with other states, the reports have recommended that Arizona significantly enrich STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) instruction throughout its K-12 educational system.

Among other steps, educational and bioindustry leaders have argued for strengthening teacher preparation, increasing the availability of courses that develop laboratory skills, and adding opportunities for internships.

Both small specialty high schools follow an educational model centered on personalized instruction, thematically aligned coursework, rigorous development of high-technology skills, and formation of adult-world partnerships in the community.

At CREST, students will select one of three areas of interest to explore intensively: health sciences, agricultural science, or engineering. Students will take courses in those areas with other CREST students while earning general education credits–in areas such as English, foreign languages, physical education, and social studies–from the larger Paradise Valley High School. Students will have opportunities for internships via formal partnerships that are being established or expanded with Honeywell, Jet Products, Mayo Clinic, and Paradise Valley Hospital.

“PVHS looks forward to providing students with a state-of-the-art lab to encourage and promote science and engineering education within our curricula,” said Cara Herkamp, principal of Paradise Valley High School.

“We currently offer students the opportunity to participate in several professional certification programs, including EMT, phlebotomy, and certified drafting,” Herkamp noted. “We’re excited about teaming with our career and technical-education program to build on these opportunities for our CREST students.”

Grant funds to support creation of the Medical Sciences School will be used to renovate the existing historic McKinley building adjacent to Bioscience High School. The renamed McKinley Hall will include classrooms, a theater, and a medical library, said Phoenix Union High School district spokesman Craig Pletenik in the Arizona Republic. Students will share cafeteria and common space with students at the larger Bioscience High School.

The Medical Sciences School will focus on helping students develop the foundational skills and knowledge that will support successful completion of advanced college-level coursework. It will also provide career development in the medical fields of nursing, veterinary science, epidemiology and medical practice, in part through new or more-robust partnerships with Arizona State University, Barrow Neurological Institute, the Maricopa Community Colleges, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Partnership with ASU.

“With this grant, we’re able to complete the whole vision of Bioscience High School, a small school within a small school,” Pletenik said in the Republic.

For more information:

City to help build 2 specialty schools,” Arizona Republic, 06/02/2008

City of Phoenix news release

The Push to Improve STEM Education,” Education Week, 03/27/2008

National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education System, National Science Board, 10/30/2007