By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – Excitement was in the air this fall as the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program began for Marlborough High School (MHS) ninth-graders and sixth-graders at the Whitcomb Middle School. During the orientation given by program teachers, students were encouraged to reach higher, become risk takers, and take ownership of their education and careers.
The local STEM Early College High School (ECHS) program is part of a national initiative of more than 200 similar schools that provides students with access to both high school and college credit. It combines a rigorous program with intense academic support in a personalized environment designed to increase success for all students, especially those whose access to a traditional college path may be limited. Partnering with Framingham State University, students engage in a project-based curriculum, use laptops, and choose career paths that incorporate dual enrollment during their junior and senior years. Students will also experience real-world applications through collaboration with industry partners. Marlborough High School Vice Principal Dan Riley is the Marlborough School District's STEM ECHS administration, and Bill Rigney is the District STEM instructional specialist.
“As an educational leader, this is what teaching and learning is all about. We'se changing the game of public education by integrating true rigor and relevance into our classrooms,” Riley said. “Perhaps most rewarding is the fact that we'se successfully accomplishing this for all students by incorporating meaningful support structures that target the needs of individual learners.”
Another benefit of the initiative is the one-to-one technology with wireless access at both the high school and middle school; each STEM ECHS student is provided with a small laptop computer to use for research, lessons, and online collaboration. The technology component provides students access to global information and further the concept of the STEM program by reinforcing the use of technology as a catalyst to advance student learning.
“There are many benefits to the program – students learn how to give presentations to student and adult audiences,” Rigney said. “We are helping prepare them for life skills: how to work in a group, to let people know their thoughts and ideas, and to learn how to compromise – all basic tools for living.
“The real positive support from parents has contributed immeasurably to the success of the program,” he added. “It is obvious that students are being encouraged by their parents to apply and understand these opportunities.”
Rigney praised the teaching staff for the extra effort and enthusiasm all are displaying. The MHS STEM ECHIS Team includes Joanne DiAgostino, Doug Tocio, Ken Hanson, Scott Brown, Heather Kohn, Shawna Shea and Paul Duplessis. Whitcomb teachers in the program are Katie Lubkert, Joanne Mahoney, Ann Valerio, Jeanne Gutowski, Bill White, Jeff Gay and Angel Davis.
Gov. Deval Patrick and other state education leaders visited the Whitcomb School in the fall, which marked the first anniversary of the program and the state's Race to the Top funding. He praised Superintendent Anthony Pope and administrators for the achievements all of them are making together in the education field.