Bluffton Middle School is the eighth district school to earn a prestigious certification in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics instruction. The outside review team that evaluated the school today announced the big news at the end of its visit.
STEM Certification is earned through AdvancED, a non-profit organization that provides on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems around the world. Beaufort County has more STEM-certified schools than any district in South Carolina (eight of 29 statewide).
Four district schools earned STEM certification in 2015 (Beaufort, Michael C. Riley and Pritchardville elementary schools and Lady’s Island Middle School), two earned certification in 2016 (Okatie Elementary and River Ridge Academy), and Red Cedar Elementary earned certification last month.
“Congratulations to Bluffton Middle School’s educators and students,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss. “Today’s achievement is a point of pride for the entire school district. It’s also worth repeating and emphasizing that all eight of our district’s schools that have worked toward STEM certification have achieved it. That’s a point of pride, too, and we will work hard to keep improving.”
AdvancED touts its STEM Certification as “the first internationally recognized mark of quality for STEM schools and programs, signaling the growing emphasis placed on STEM education by educators, politicians and business leaders around the world.”
AdvancED requires applying schools to meets its STEM Certification standards as reflected by their performance across 11 rigorous indicators. The process is supported by research-based tools and resources, and AdvancEd says that high evaluation scores mean that students in those schools are equipped and trained to be innovative, creative and systematic problem-solvers across disciplines.
AdvancED reviewers examine each school’s evidence of quality STEM education that the schools provided to the review team beforehand, and on-site classroom observations then focus on identifying student engagement and collaboration in the learning process. Reviewers also interview key stakeholders such as school administrators, teachers and staff, parents, students and external partners to verify the school’s commitment to connecting students’ STEM experiences in the classroom to the local community and the world at large.
The review team that visited Bluffton Middle School today praised the multiple and frequent opportunities that students are afforded to self-direct their learning. Also singled out as a major asset was the school’s wide range of technical resources students can use for research, critical thinking, communications, creativity and collaborative teamwork.