The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) selected Thomas County Central High School as one of only five high schools in the entire state to receive a $30,000 Advanced Placement (AP) Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) grant and the only high school in the state to be awarded the grant in two fields, computer science and statistics.
This grant will allow the high school to build upon its already successful Advanced Placement Computer Science and Statistics programs by developing rigorous feeder courses and building faculty capacity in both the AP and pre-AP programs.
The award, announced January 30, 2017, by Governor Nathan Deal, is the seventh technology-related grant awarded to the Thomas County School System within the last two years and brings the system’s total grant awards over that time period to more than $5 million.
A product of a partnership between GOSA and the College Board, the AP Rural STEM Grant is designed to create a vertical pathway to student success in AP STEM courses. Funding from this initiative will provide Thomas County Schools with teacher professional learning and mentorships in AP Computer Science and AP Statistics.
Dr. Jim Rehberg, Thomas County Central High School Assistant Principal and Advanced Placement Coordinator, said, “One of the greatest advantages of this grant is that it will provide resources to involve middle school students in computer science and statistics so that they will eventually choose to participate in Advanced Placement courses in high school.”
Rehberg and Robin Cartright, Coordinator of Secondary Instruction and Professional Learning, worked together to complete the grant which included input from multiple administrators, teachers, and consultants.
“Our need for this grant was two-fold,” Cartright said. “Our students need support in successfully completing AP STEM courses, along with the corresponding AP exam(s). They also need a clear pathway to both AP Statistics and AP Computer Science beginning at Thomas County Middle School.”
Thomas County Middle School teachers will receive training in AP and Pre-AP strategies for their specific courses. Since the Pre-AP teachers are unfamiliar with the rigorous coursework required by AP courses, they will be trained in various instructional strategies that incorporate rigor into the classroom. Teachers of these courses will also be given time to collaborate on lessons, activities, and assessments that will allow students to be successful in the AP classroom.
“We are excited about strengthening our program with highly qualified teachers who know what the AP expectation are – standardized across the nation and world – globally,” Rehberg said. “The teachers will be able to transfer that knowledge to our students. We intend for our students to be competitive with anyone. We don’t want any opportunity to be beyond their ability or limited by our resources. If they can dream it, we want to help them get there.”
Students taking AP Statistics and AP Computer Science learn applicable skills such as quality control and programming. This will eventually allow students to become marketable and work-ready in the STEM-related employment field.
“Our students will be able to more successfully complete rigorous AP courses which could lead to an increase in scholarship opportunities and successful admissions to top-flight universities,” Cartright said. “Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit(s) for AP courses, thus reducing future tuition costs and freeing up time spent in the traditional college setting.”
The money awarded by this grant will be used in several ways. First, it will allow Thomas County Schools to better align Pre-AP and AP STEM courses from TCMS to TCCHS by affording professional development and mentoring for the teachers of those courses. These teachers will also have time to collaborate on lessons and assessments that prepare students for AP courses.
“Grant money will also be used to actively recruit students into the AP STEM program,” Cartright said. “We will offer a summer computer science camp for students in grades 6-8 and will begin a Girls Who Code club for female students in grades 6-12. Finally, we will be able to implement appropriate student supports for students enrolled in AP STEM courses.”
Girls Who Code is the national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. This will bring computer science education and free after-school programs for 6-12th grade girls to use computer science to impact their community and join the sisterhood of supportive peers and role models.
“It's very exciting and rewarding to have been awarded this grant,” Cartright added. “I'm most excited about the opportunities this grant will open up for our students!”
The first engagement will be the College Board Southern Regional Forum in Atlanta February 15-17. AP workshops will follow in the summer of 2017 and regional meetings in the fall.