STEM Standard Narrative
What were the areas of strength? What were the areas in need of improvement? What actions will the school implement to sustain the areas of strength? Describe the school’s plans to improve the areas of needs.
Michael C. Riley Elementary School embraces on the philosophy that all students should have the opportunity to learn through an integrated STEM approach. A strength of our school is that we serve and involve the entire population in STEM learning, including students from under-represented groups. Our student population includes 821 students, 51% of whom are male, and 49% of whom are female. Regarding ethnicity, 55% of our students come from Hispanic backgrounds, 31% classify themselves as white, 12% classify themselves as African American, 2% come from backgrounds of multiple ethnicities, and students of Asian and American Indian descent make up less than 1% of the population, respectively. Seventy-four percent of our student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch. All of these students are offered the opportunity to experience learning through an inquiry-based learning environment. Through open-ended, real-world problems, students are provided numerous opportunities to creatively problem solve as individuals or collaboratively. Students not only receive an integrated STEM approach during the school day, extended day STEM experiences that include STEM-focused before and after school clubs, field experiences, and community events are well attended.
One of our greatest assets at Michael C. Riley is our local community and surroundings, and our educators do a fantastic job of taking advantage of local resources as ways to make learning more realistic and engaging for students. Many of our students are unaware of the fantastic learning opportunities in their own backyards, so our teachers strive to help them make those connections through field studies, visitors, and community-based projects. From walking less than a mile to the local “river” to observe tidal fluctuation and habitats to visiting our local farmer’s market to extend their knowledge of producers and consumers, our students are regularly engaged in real-world learning that connects them to their environment. We are also able to take advantage of community members in our local area, who come to school to share their expertise or assistance with students on a variety of topics that connect to curriculum.
In order to sustain our established integrated STEM approach for all students, professional development is crucial. The vision for an integrated STEM approach is set forth by the administration and professional learning opportunities are differentiated to meet the needs of teachers throughout the year. STEM-specific learning is completed by all teachers through sustained school-level and district-level professional development sessions. Our school will continue our ongoing professional development, commitment to designated instructional time and collaboration between teachers, and established partnerships with S2TEM Centers SC to support our goal of serving all students through a school-wide integrated STEM approach.
A specific target for improvement will be continuing to grow peer collaboration among teachers, in particular in the area of assessment. While designated common planning time currently exists for each grade level, new areas of focus for collaboration will be creating shared goals and standards of student mastery of STEM skills, as well as regular cooperative review of student work to ensure consistent expectations and classroom products across classrooms and grade levels. Growing this synergy will provide opportunities for peer coaching, which will be a key strategy for capitalizing on our current strengths and growing capacity throughout our school. Another area of focus will be continued development of integrated STEM units at each grade level through focused and structured professional learning and shared planning time.