When Dr. Rodney Watson became superintendent at Spring ISD in Texas, the school system was in the throes of expansive growth. Diversity was on the rise, and new school buildings and facilities were opening monthly. To keep pace, Watson launched his Every Child 2020 plan, a district-wide commitment to addressing diversity via a creative approach to education and career preparedness. At the core of that plan was a focus on critical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, and the real-world benefits of those skills. To help meet his vision for every child, Watson chose the nonprofit JASON Learning. As schools double-down on distance-learning in run-up to back to school 2020, that decision has proved fortuitous for his district. Here’s why.
Spring Independent School District, TX
In a district where one in 10 students receives bilingual education support and more than 40 languages are spoken, there is intense demand for personalized (and differentiated) instruction. As teachers transition students to blended learning this fall, that need has intensified.
For students to succeed — in school and in life — Watson knew that his team needed a better way to prepare students for a world of work beyond the classroom. In addition to aligning the district’s science and math curriculum to state standards, he sought a solution that would engage students in real-world problem-solving and blazen the kinds of practical career pathways supported by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Watson’s search for practical education and career training landed the district on JASON Learning, an extensive library of STEM curricula and professional development resources that challenges students to explore technical education against a backdrop of real-world challenges, with support from industry experts and mentors.
Through student participation in JASON’s Argonaut program, Spring ISD learners become part of a community of real scientists, engineers, and other STEM role models — further expanding their understanding of potential STEM careers and college and post-secondary options.
A collection of virtual field trips and videos demonstrate that, when it comes to distance and virtual learning, remote doesn’t have to mean removed.
To make the lessons easy for students and teachers to access, the district houses all of its STEM learning content on a proprietary online platform, including a library of associated text resources, STEM units, and related reading, mathematics, and career pathway options. Watson calls it a “a one-stop, easy-to-access resource” created to encourage participation by parents and students. The content has proved especially useful in light of the recent focus on virtual and blended instruction ushered in by COVID-19.
In addition to online content and curricula, JASON also partners with the district to offer relevant extension programs, including summer and after-school experiences and access to STEM academies. Watson credits these experiences, and the district’s continued partnership with JASON, with opening up new worlds and career options for students who otherwise might not have considered STEM an option for their future.
“Preparing students for success in college, career, and life should be the mission of every school district and every school — both here in the United States and abroad. Unfortunately, many students today — including students here in Spring ISD — are graduating from high school lacking some of the needed skills to compete in an ever-more-complex global marketplace.”
Dr. Rodney Watson
Superintendent, Spring ISD (Texas)