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The Case for a Fallon Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program

October 30, 2010

Could Fallon School have a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Program starting in the Fall of 2011?  A Fallon STEM Program has been presented as one option regarding next steps to address forecasted elementary student growth at Green, Fallon and Kolb (opening Fall 2011).  The proposal has many questions yet to be answered and wouldn’t completely address the issues facing the Dublin Unified School District, but is the only option that has potential upside for students, parents and the community.  OneDublin.org supports the Fallon STEM Proposal in concept, conditional on Green and Kolb remaining K-5 elementary schools for students that do not participate in the Fallon STEM Program.  Important questions still need to be answered (as detailed below).

Unforecasted growth at the elementary school level has triggered a passionate debate over how to best serve students and families in Green, Fallon and Kolb (opening Fall 2011) schools.  The San Ramon Unified School District is facing similar challenges where enrollment is 500 students over forecast (read more…).

The Dublin Unified School District’s proposal to turn Green and Kolb into K-4 schools, and Fallon into a middle school with a standalone 5th grade program, has met with stiff opposition led by Dublin parent Lisa Doherty’s open letter opposed to the District’s initial proposal (read more…) with permission by OneDublin.org) and a subsequent petition fielded by concerned parents (that garnered over 400 signatures, read more…).

As a result, several alternative proposals are being investigated by the District via a recently fielded District survey (results available here…) and additional community meetings.  One of the proposals is to create an optional Fallon STEM Program open to all 5/6 grade students in the District.  If enough parents and students are interested in this program it would help balance the enrollment at Fallon, Green and Kolb.

In March 2008 the Congressional Research Service released a comprehensive report (read more…) on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Congress.  The report states, “In a recent international assessment of 15-year-old students, the U.S. ranked 28th in math literacy and 24th in science literacy. Moreover, the U.S. ranks 20th among all nations in the proportion of 24-year-olds who earn degrees in natural science or engineering.”

While STEM fields and courses are not relevant or of interest to all students, we have a responsibility to better support and encourage those students with a proficiency and interest in STEM fields before they enter high school.  Informal polling by OneDublin.org of parents in the community, and the results of a recent District survey (read more…), has demonstrated strong interest in the proposal.  OneDublin.org recommends that the Dublin Unified School District pursue a Fallon STEM Program as part of the solution to the current Green / Fallon / Kolb challenges.

Fallon STEM Option – Key Questions

  • What is the planned curriculum for the Fallon STEM program and will the program continue for all middle school grades and connect to the Dublin High Engineering Academy and BioTech programs?
  • Can students join in later grades?  Can students leave the program year to year?  Will students need to be tested or assessed to enter the program or is the program open enrollment?
  • Will Green and Kolb remain K-5 elementary schools if this program is launched at Fallon? How many students would be required for the program to launch, and to provide sufficient relief to Green and Kolb?  What is the capacity of Fallon to support this program (how many students could enroll if the program proves popular)?
  • What enrichment elements will be included and/or involvement of local STEM companies?  Dublin High Engineering Academy funding has been partially provided by local businesses – is it possible for a Fallon program to be funded through donations? If not, what budget impacts would be necessary to fund the program?
  • Can the existing Fallon faculty deliver a high quality STEM program? If not, what changes are required and can those be implemented by Fall 2011?  The Federal Study on STEM education noted above observed: “A recent review of the research on teacher quality conducted over the last 20 years revealed that, among those who teach math and science, having a major in the subject taught has a significant positive impact on student achievement … Among middle-school teachers, 51.5% of those who taught math and 40.0% of those who taught science did not have a major or minor in these subjects.” (source: available here…)

Additional resources:

OneDublin.org STEM-related articles:

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