Harford County Public Schools

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Building a STEM Education Strategic Plan


The Challenge

By 2009, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) had become a major area of focus in education. Numerous international reports pointed to a decline in participation and performance of U.S. students in science and mathematics, and increased demand for people with STEM degrees. At the same time that student participation was falling, demand for STEM workers was rising, particularly in northeastern Maryland where a thriving research and development community had taken root.

Northeastern Maryland is home to Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), the Army’s lead installation for science and technology, and to hundreds of technical companies. The region was expanding as a result of several factors, most notably the relocation of the missions and people of Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act of 2005. This shift fundamentally changed the economy of the region from agricultural to one based increasingly on science and technology development, expected in the future to rival research centers such as Research Triangle in North Carolina or Silicon Valley in California.

Harford County Public Schools is responsible for educating almost 40,000 students in Northeastern Maryland. While Harford County had been offering STEM education programs for years, school leaders wanted to ensure that its programs aligned with the requirements of the new regional economy. Because of its experience leading strategic planning exercises in government settings, Profile Partners was chosen to partner with Harford County Public Schools to develop a roadmap for STEM education.

The Approach

The school system wanted formal input from the local science and technology community about issues and trends that may impact STEM education. Profile Partners helped establish a 20-person STEM Education Advisory Board made up of leaders from government, industry, and higher education, which provided guidance to the school system as it revamped its STEM educational programs. The STEM Advisory Board helped the school system identify issues and trends in workforce, higher education, and in STEM practices that may impact STEM education in Harford County through 2020. This information was used by Harford County Public Schools as a basis for developing its 10-year STEM Education Strategic Plan.

Once the STEM Advisory Board completed its input, Profile Partners helped the school system form and facilitate an internal STEM Working Group. This group was made up of content and functional supervisors in the school system and was charged with developing the STEM Education Strategic Plan.

The Result

As of this writing, the school system is in its third year of implementation of the strategic plan and students are greatly benefiting from an expanded suite of STEM education offerings. Through this process, the school system was able to identify its highest priorities, and make rapid progress on offering challenging STEM coursework to all students in Harford County. The plan also guides the county’s grant request process and informs decision-making to install programs as resources are available. During this time, the school system has established new partnerships with the science and technology industry, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of new grants for STEM programs.

Contact Harford County Public Schools.