At Hays Consolidated Independent School District, one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, we are always looking for the partners and programs that
best prepare our students for success after high school. One such partnership began in 2001 and is not only going strong, but is actually growing as we approach the end of the 2017-18 academic year. In 2001, Hays CISD was one of the first schools outside of the state of New York to join the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) family, when we began offering PLTW Engineering classes to the students at Hays High School.
Eighteen years later, we still offer the PLTW Engineering program at Hays CISD. As their Engineering course offerings have increased and improved, we have grown with Project Lead The Way and now offer Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Digital Electronics, and Engineering Design and Development at our district’s two, soon to be three, high school campuses. Our school board and administration support the program financially, purchasing both schools milling machines, laser cutters, robotic arms, VEX equipment, and top of the line 3-D printers to produce prototypes of student designs. Now students have a physical representation of their design concepts that can be shared with college recruiters and potential employers.
Over time, as our district developed a stronger working relationship with PLTW, we began to offer the Project Lead the Way Gateway program at all six of our district middle schools. Initially designed as support for the Engineering programs, these classes have expanded as Project Lead The Way has expanded into the areas of Computer Science and BioMedical Science. Students spend their middle school years exploring Engineering, Computer Science, and Biomedical Science related problems and are able to use the projects to determine what they are passionate about and how that relates to their future career options.
Our district’s strong belief in the value of Project-Based Learning led to the adoption of the PLTW Biomedical Science curriculum in 2013-14 and the addition of the Computer Science curriculum two years ago. This school year, we were selected as a PLTW Biomedical Science Showcase school and were able to share with other districts the benefits of the PLTW program. One benefit of the transition from a Health Science curriculum to the Biomedical Science that we were able to share at the showcase and at CTAT Winter conference in January is that, unlike Health Science, Biomedical Science does not require that the teacher have a professional medical certification in order to teach the course. That change has made finding teachers certified to teach courses for students interested in health careers a much simpler task. An added benefit to the switch to Biomedical Science has been an improvement in our student performance on the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) test that our fourth-year students take in May. This year is the first class we have had go through all four years of PLTW Biomedical Science and we have already seen a significant increase in raw scores and the passing rate over past years. To date we have had eight biomedical seniors pass the CCMA exam this school year.
Just this year, we began offering the Project Lead The Way Launch program to students at several of our district’s elementary schools. Now students as young as Kindergarten have the opportunity to work on hands-on activities in a collaborative, problem-solving environment. Here, through discovery learning, they can develop creative solutions to problems and learning becomes fun! As you can see, I am a strong proponent of Project Lead The Way. If you are considering adding the PLTW curriculum to your district’s CTE offerings, feel free to contact me at Suzi.Mitchell@hayscisd.net. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.