To achieve transformational change in Eastern Kentucky, the East Power Kentucky Cooperative (EPKC) and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) will launch the STEM Transforming Eastern Kentucky (STEM-TEK) initiative, which aims to create a workforce that is ready for high-skill, high-wage jobs in a targeted 19 county region.
Over the three-year commitment period, commitment partners will implement PLTWs K-12 STEM curriculum in 177 schools in 29 districts, engaging over 82,000 students in high-quality project-based STEM learning, which will prepare them for postsecondary education and ultimately for careers in STEM. Additionally, 3,000 teachers will receive professional development and support throughout the commitment.
All PLTW teachers must pass a rigorous professional development program prior to becoming certified. Upon certification, teachers will be given ongoing support through PLTW and a network of peers, and ongoing training through PLTWs Learning Management System. They will also be encouraged to pursue National Board Certification (NBC). Completion of the NBC training through the Teacher Leader Masters Program will mean teachers will have national board certification, a masters degree, and an increase in salary equivalent to 2 rank changes or $6,000 - $8,000 annually.
As a result of participation in the program, at no cost to the teacher, an agreement will be entered into securing three years of teaching in the same sponsoring school district to retain the investment in the teacher in the targeted communities.
The STEM-TEK initiative will provide financial and in-kind support for schools and districts, including equipment and technology. Additionally, PLTW will place a staff member at the local level to provide day-to-day support and coordination for local leaders.
STEM-TEK leaders will work to ensure that students may pursue their STEM degrees or certificates close to home. A readiness assessment will be conducted among area colleges and universities to verify the capacity for a substantial increase in number of students. Should they lack the capacity to serve the newly-developed student demand, STEM-TEK leaders will work closely with the institutions to identify what may be done to improve vertical alignment and dual credit opportunities.
Finally, STEM-TEK partners will launch a focused public relations campaign to raise awareness among students, parents, teachers and communities of the new educational opportunities.
Develop a ten-year timeline that describes the steps necessary to implement the STEM-TEK model. The timeline must include, but is not limited to the following activities: analysis of data, professional learning, parent, and community input; annual and quarterly assessments; and stakeholder leadership activities.
Begin grassroots public relations campaign to expose community stakeholders to the value in STEM education and developing a high-skilled workforce in the targeted communities.
Evaluate the capacity of local institutions of higher education to handle the influx of students pursuing STEM degrees, and work with public and private sectors to adjust accordingly.
Establish three sites that will serve as a demonstration models for other schools and will host various meetings, events, vertical wrap-around professional learning, and live-interactive student work sharing conferences.
Fully implement program into the seven existing PLTW districts to continue building out the existing K-12 STEM pipeline, with an overall goal of 60 regional schools adopting PLTW curriculum.
Continue expansion of the initiative model to other counties within the Eastern Kentucky region and work with public and private partners to ensure the long-term sustainability of the initiative, with a goal of 120 regional schools adopting PLTW curriculum.
Conduct at least two principal, PLTW instructor, and student presentations to local education board, KDE Board and produce live, interactive video-stream presentations with state and federal elected officials to highlight the successes and point out the challenges.
Establish a program that encourages, via promotional materials, recruiting, and financial assistance, local high school graduates to pursue a STEM degree at a local institution of higher education.
Complete adoption of PLTW in 177 regional schools.
Market the success of the initiative to corporations and use the initiative as a cornerstone of a larger economic development project and solicit interesting to build out a decade of transformational change for the region.
Conduct at least two additional principal, PLTW instructor, and student presentations to local education board, KDE Board and produce live, interactive video-stream presentations with state and federal elected officials to highlight the successes and point out the challenges.
On June 26, 2014, The New York Times declared that Eastern Kentucky
just might be the hardest place to live in the United States. Statistically speaking. The region, once heavily dependent on coal production, has struggled for decades with jobs disappearing and college bound students never returning. Perhaps more than anywhere in the United States, this is an area in dire need of an economic overhaul.
To accomplish this, education and economic development must create seamless pathways for improved workforce to secure new industries and employers for Eastern Kentucky.
As of February 2014, Eastern Kentucky counties had an average unemployment rate of 12.6%, substantially higher than the national rate and double the Kentucky average. Just over 27% of its citizens have a high school diploma and only 12.4% hold a bachelors degree in any field, which is 16.4% lower than the national average. No economic development initiative could possibly succeed unless these numbers are dramatically changed. The revitalization of Eastern Kentucky will ultimately require a substantial investment in the talent pipeline.
Much has been made of the skills shortages in STEM occupations, yet few states have taken deliberate steps to truly build a STEM talent pipeline, and employers have taken notice. This presents a tremendous opportunity for Eastern Kentucky, and could represent the lifeline the region has sought for decades.
Building out a highly-qualified K-16 STEM talent pipeline that can be malleable and responsive to the needs of local employers, combined with the existing efforts to provide broadband internet access throughout the region, will be very attractive to businesses seeking to relocate or expand their operations. If successful, such an initiative would begin to lure high-wage, high-demand jobs to an area that desperately needs them, and would keep more talented, young Kentuckians in a newly vibrant portion of the state.