2014-01-10 / Front Page

STEM scholar program approved

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The Regional School Unit 21 board of directors approved the STEM scholar program for the Kennebunk High School class of 2015, as well as an option for students to take specified science, technology, engineering or math classes on a pass/fail basis.

Assistant Superintendent Sara Zito and Kennebunk High School Principal Sue Cressey, along with Alan Carp, STEM coordinator for the high school, proposed the program and the pass/fail option at a meeting in November.

“The program will outline the courses that students need to take in order to qualify for STEM certificates,” Cressey said. “Connections have also been made with university programs so that students will be able to earn college credit.”

Many STEM courses are already being offered at the high school. The STEM scholar program is, in essence, a method of formalizing the curriculum to outline a path and goal students can seek.

A major objective is to expand students’ options, Zito said Monday night.

“We’re trying to encourage students to take risks and take these classes,” Zito said of the pass/fail courses. “This makes the program accessible to anyone — the only pressure is to learn,” Carp said in November.

Some of the classes students can take to earn a STEM scholar program certificate include Algebra 1 and 2, physics, Advanced Placement Biology and Calculus AB or BC.

Electives include classes such as robotics, advanced placement computer science, engineering, architectural design, a senior internship and an approved vocational class.

Students will have the option of seeking a STEM certificate with honors or with distinction. They can take one pass/fail course per semester for a total of two credits and it would not count as a math or science requirement.

Courses students can take for pass/fail include Calculus AB and BC, Multivariable Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Computer Science and AP Statistics.

It is not yet clear whether the pass/fail classes will be Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, “or something we generate ourselves,” Zito said.

Enrolling in a pass/fail class would not preclude a student from taking the AP or IB exam, but it is not a requirement to pass.

Grades for the pass/fail classes will not be factored into a student’s grade point average, Zito said, but the course will be listed on a transcript. “This is our foray into proficiency based education,” Zito said.

Other aspects of the scholar program include outreach to local universities, the implementation of an internship program and the possibility of earning college credits as a high school student.

In November, Carp presented the likelihood of new classes being offered at Kennebunk High School, such as calculus based physics.

“We are staffed for this program now ... and we will cater to the student need,” Zito said of new courses offered through the STEM scholar program.

“You don’t have to sign up for this, per se; it isn’t a school within a school ... it’s just taking classes that are of interest to you,” Zito said. “We want to offer you (students) a variety of electives and to acknowledge that with a certificate at graduation.”

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