When Project Lead The Way — now the nation's leading provider of college preparatory science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education curriculum programs — decided to create a Biomedical Sciences Program in 2003, only a handful of states had the foresight to participate in the pilot program.
Oklahoma (and our CareerTech system) was one of them.
Over the past decade, Project Lead The Way-based curriculums in high schools and CareerTech centers across the state have provided an exceptional foundation for hundreds of students who envision their futures as doctors, biologists, chemists or a host of other bioscience-related professionals.
Project Lead The Way “programs are designed for a diverse range of students, from those already interested in STEM-related fields to those more inspired by the application of STEM than they are by traditional courses,” said Robin Schott, vice president for program's West Central Region, a 12-state area that includes Oklahoma. “Our mission is to help them identify their interests in STEM careers and make sure they're ready for college-level programs.”
That may sound like a tall order, but it's happening all over the state, from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bartlesville, Lawton, Claremore and Duncan to Choctaw, Ponca City, Drumright, Altus, Fort Cobb and Burns Flat.
Oklahoma City's Francis Tuttle Technology Center is a good example. I recently toured Francis Tuttle's Project Lead The Way-associated Biosciences and Medicine Academy and was impressed with the program, the faculty and the students. Three instructors teach anatomy and physiology, pre-AP and AP chemistry, and AP physics, microbiology and a series of biomedical science courses, respectively. A fourth teaches pre-AP and AP-level math. Ken Koch, the center's director of marketing and communications, said a fifth instructor will be added for the next school term.
In 2011-12, all of the 21 seniors who completed the Biosciences and Medicine Academy curriculum went on to four-year college programs and cumulatively amassed more than $800,000 in scholarships. Two students were accepted into highly competitive B.S.-to-M.D. programs.
And consider these staggering statistics: The average statewide composite ACT score for the 2011-12 school term was 20.7; the average for the Francis Tuttle Biosciences and Medicine Academy was 27.0.
There are anecdotal metrics, as well.
“We get a lot of ‘I'm miles ahead of the rest of my class because of what I learned at the academy' kinds of stories from our academy graduates,” Koch said. “The success of the program really is due to the dedicated faculty and students who are committed to their own success.”
Project Lead The Way and programs like those at Francis Tuttle are helping to pave the way to a strong and thriving bioscience future for our state.
As Oklahomans, we must support, nurture and grow those efforts.
Sheri Stickley is President & CEO of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, www.okbio.org