STEM’s roots in DUSD

Dear Editor: Based on the two letters to the editor in The Downey Patriot titled, “Failure in Math and Science Education Beginning to Add Up” (September 18) and “Math and Science – Not Just for Rocket Scientists” (October 9), I would like to address the thoughts of Mr. Dick Resch, CEO of KI Furniture in Wisconsin.

In the September 18 letter, Mr. Resch states the following, “Without a dramatic overhaul of math and science instruction, American students will continue to lag behind those in the rest of the world. Engaged learning strategies have proven successful in boosting student achievements quickly and dramatically.”

The Downey Unified School District’s goal is to immerse all students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Engaging our kids with hands-on activities and providing 21st Century environments is the present and future for our community. Officially adopted by the Board of Education in July, the Downey Unified School District’s vision is for all students to graduate with a 21st Century education that ensures they are college and career ready, globally competitive and citizens of strong character.

I agree with Mr. Resch that fostering engaged learning empowers students to play a more active role in their own education. By increasing the amount of STEM offering at all levels of education, DUSD has taken the necessary steps to make this educational shift possible.

As a direct outcome of Measure D, a school bond measure that was passed by voters in 2002, the Downey Unified School District has been able to reconstruct the way students learn. Seven years ago, DUSD rolled out two Project Lead The Way (PTLW) classes at the high school level, Aerospace Engineering and Architecture. PLTW is the leading provider of rigorous and innovative STEM curriculum. The PLTW program inspires and engages students through hands on, project-based curriculum. Research on PLTW programs across the U.S. offers evidence that PLTW contributes to raising student achievement and motivation in science and engineering, both of which are essential to success in these career fields.

Today, the PLTW program offerings in DUSD schools have grown substantially. Currently, we offer a total of over 30 classes in a variety of engineering areas; including, Aerospace Engineering, Architectural Design, Introduction to Engineering, Principles of Biomedical Engineering, CAD/CAM Drafting, Engineering Physics and Computer Science Engineering.

Stated by Mr. Resch in the October 9 letter, “Engaged learning models are trickling down into the elementary and secondary schools, too.” Approximately three years ago, the district endeavored to build a pipeline to our high schools by integrating the PLTW Gateway To Technology (GTT)curriculum into our middle schools. Currently we offer GTT at all four middle schools; classes include Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics, Green Architecture, Flight and Space, and Medical Detectives. As of this year, DUSD is also beginning a brand new program utilizing PLTW in grades K-5 called Launch, spreading project-based STEM learning to the elementary level. We are one of the only districts in the nation using PLTW in all grades K-12.

Also shared in the October 9 letter, “Allowing students to practice by doing… results in a whopping 75 percent retention rate. The way forward is clear: Embrace technology, collaboration and hands-on learning.”

The implementation of project-based learning furthers the vision the Downey Unified School District has for our students and their respective futures. Keeping our kids up-to-date with technology, reenacting real-life career situations inside the classroom and staying ahead of our ever changing, globally competitive society is the way forward for our kids.

The DUSD recognizes where education is going which is why the Board placed a bond measure on the November 4 ballot. If the community supports the bond measure, the district can continue implementation at all levels.

Keeping Downey on the cutting edge of education and remaining loyal to our roots that began in the aerospace industry seem a natural fit. This is a community that has always believed in our kids and that they deserve the best we can offer.

Dr. John Garcia

Dr. John Garcia is Superintendent of the Downey Unified School District.



Published: Oct. 16, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 27