Transforming STEM education at Dearborn STEM Academy

| Boston Plan for Excellence

What will it take to educate students for our global and tech-driven career landscape?  By some estimates, 65% of today’s children will ultimately work in careers that don’t even exist yet. If traditional schools are struggling to prepare students for today, how can they possibly plan for tomorrow? At Dearborn STEM Academy, a Boston Public School and a Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) Teaching Academy in the heart of Roxbury, we have spent the last three years reimagining middle and high school, designing courses, work-based learning experiences, career pathways and an overall culture that equips students with the skills and mindsets necessary to succeed in our city’s rapidly changing labor market. Our school model thus far has been successful by many measures.  Most significantly, all of our graduating seniors over the last year were accepted into at least one college, and the class of 2018 received an average of $20k in scholarship funds per student.

This fall, the Dearborn moved into a brand new, state-of-the-art STEM facility—the first new public school building in Boston in 17 years. The building is replete with features that will facilitate 21st century learning, such as a makerspace, a two-room fabrication lab, 3D printers, laser die cutter, media room and more. Its spaces are open, flexible and designed to enable collaborative, project-based learning.

Dearborn students take part in hands-on intensive learning across all STEM focuses. Photo Credit Melissa Ostrow.

Digital literacy and the opportunity for students to progress through advanced programming courses are key to our vision. Dearborn students take computer science courses in each grade from 6 to 12, including robotics, graphic arts, app development and game design. Massachusetts is only beginning to develop educator standards for licensure to teach K-12 computer science. The Dearborn is uniquely poised to pilot computer science instruction, as it is a host site for BPE’s teacher training program, Boston Teacher Residency (BTR). With Microsoft’s help, BTR has launched the first computer science teacher residency in the nation. Over the course of the 2018-19 school year, BTR will train aspiring educators to teach computer science in the Boston Public Schools.

Additionally, Microsoft serves as a key industry partner for the Dearborn and for Boston Public Schools, giving critical input to school leaders and teachers to help us develop curriculum and programming that is aligned with employer needs, so that we are creating a pipeline of talented candidates for careers at companies like Microsoft. BPE and Microsoft are currently developing a teacher externship program in which Dearborn teachers will spend time working on a project with Microsoft in order to keep up with changes in the field of computer science and tech innovation.  Partnerships such as this are essential to our success, and a great model for Boston’s schools and other urban districts across the country.