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STEM-ing the tide of poor math scores

STEM-ing the tide of poor math scores

By Reggie Ellis


WOODLAKE – Less than 10% of Woodlake High School graduates have met California university requirements, one third of the countywide average.

According to the California Department of Education, just 9.6% of Woodlake graduates met requirements to attend a University of California or a California State University compared with 35.6% for Tulare County as a whole. A look through the California School Dashboard shows that WHS students are just 4.4 points below the standard in English language arts but are 115 points below standard in math. Despite having a significant number of English learners, Woodlake Valley Middle School students make significant gains in ELA from middle school to high school. But when it comes to math, Woodlake students seem to regress before graduating high school.

Woodlake is hoping a new classroom and curriculum will help STEM the tide of poor math scores going forward.

Woodlake Unified Superintendent Alfonso Gamino said Woodlake Valley Middle School will be debuting its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Lab next week as students go back to school on Tuesday, Aug. 13. Gamino said the district converted an old staff lounge near where Woodlake’s middle and high school campuses meet. The 1,400 to 1,800 square foot building will feature two classrooms, one that will be a STEM class for middle school students and another that will be used as an all-purpose shop by high school students in certain educational pathways.

“We purchased about $48,000 worth of furniture and equipment for the lab,” Gamino said.

The furniture and equipment are the hardware of a STEM lab program through Paxton/Patterson before STEM coaches arrive and provide the software to help students download information to prepare them for futures in STEM-related fields. Gamino said two middle school teachers were sent to training last week to learn how to build lessons around hands-on learning modules. Some of the curriculum options through Paxton/Patterson are alternative energy, audio communications, computer aided drafting, computer graphics and animation, electricity and electronics, flight technology, forensic science, intro to child development, culinary arts, computer science, laser technology, pneumatics, research and development, robotics, structural engineering, and video production.

“There is a lot of math and a lot of reading involved in this curriculum, all with the idea of helping students be college and career ready,” Gamino said.

Richard Rochin, president of the Woodlake Unified school board, said he and several other board members had attended a few STEM workshops using the Paxton/Patterson modules more than two years ago. After seeing the hands-on problem solving exercises, Rochin said he and his fellow trustees were convinced that the students were thriving in a critical thinking, creative, and tactile approach to solve complex problems.

“The kids were super engaged,” Rochin said. “When kids want to learn then they are engaged and the learning happens more quickly.”

Paxton/Patterson is the combination of two companies with a career in tools and lumber. Patterson Brothers Hardware opened in 1848 near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and became a premier hardware supply company on the East Coast. In the 1920s, they began providing schools with premium tools and materials for industrial education.

The Frank Paxton Lumber Company was founded in Kansas City in 1914. In the late 1950s, school woodworking programs that had purchased Paxton lumber began asking for adhesives, finishes, and other supplies. This led, in 1962, to the founding of Paxton Equipment and Supply.

Paxton Equipment acquired Patterson Brothers Hardware and became Paxton/Patterson in 1963. In 1990, Paxton/Patterson became one of the first companies to provide classroom technology learning systems. Today, Paxton/Patterson provides the best college and career preparation for America’s youth. Our learning systems engage students with problem-based, real-world technology.

Gamino said Woodlake Valley Middle School will be providing tours of the STEM Lab for parents during back to school night on Sept. 10.

“The school board is really looking forward to showcasing this,” Gamino said.

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