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District extends successful STEM program to middle years

The exterior of Carver High School in Philadelphia, with small picnic tables in the foreground and a U.S. flag flying on a flagpole.
Photo: Emma Lee | WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

STEM, the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, is a big buzzword in education.

It’s also a main selling point for the expansion of one of the School District of Philadelphia’s elite magnet schools, George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science, down into the 7th and 8th grades.

"The District approached us with a plan for the expansion, and we came up with a plan for the middle school," said Carver principal Ted Domers. "Rather than grow out, let’s grow down."

Carver, a 750-student school near Temple University in North Philadelphia, is consistently ranked among the top few public high schools in the city and boasts a 99 percent graduation rate, according to its Pennsylvania School Performance Profile.

The expansion, to add 60 seats each for 7th and 8th grade, will give students a chance to get a jump on courses such as computer science and engineering.

Domers said there were two main reasons for adding younger students to the school.

First was the desire to create a pipeline into the high school. Carver already has a "feeder school" relationship with four neighborhood K-8 schools around Philadelphia: Blaine, Kelley, Southwark and Arthur.

The second was a realization, he said, that "all of our 9th graders take computer science and engineering as a part of introduction to our course. … Those introductory classes are not developmentally inappropriate for middle school students."

Technology and professional development associated with the expansion were supported by a $200,000 grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership, a nonprofit that gives money to "innovative" schools of all affiliations. The District also invested in $660,000 in curriculum expenses alone.

Wanted: Middle school magnet seats

About 300 students applied for the 120 open seats at Carver. The District has already made its selection for the incoming classes.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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