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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Toppenish High School

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June 14, 2014 at 9:29 PM

Sunday story: STEM focus pays off in soaring graduation rate at Toppenish High School

Maria Vargas, a senior, left, and Elizabeth Mendoza, a junior, examine body digestive organs while practicing for a science night project at Toppenish High School, located about 30 minutes south of Yakima. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Maria Vargas, a senior, left, and Elizabeth Mendoza, a junior, examine body digestive organs while practicing for a science night project at Toppenish High School, located about 30 minutes south of Yakima. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Staring into a bin filled with cow eyeballs, high-school principal Trevor Greene felt the twitch of an idea.

He’d been touring the slaughterhouse across the road from Toppenish High with students from an agriculture class when it occurred to him that science teachers at his high-poverty school might be able to use the leftover body parts — hearts, pancreases, joints — for their new biomedical courses.

At the time, in 2011, Toppenish in Yakima County was in the midst of a five-year overhaul, transforming itself from a dropout factory, where only 19 percent of students passed state algebra exams, into a regional model for science and technology education.

Today, most of the school’s 830 students — all of them low-income — have taken courses in engineering, biomedical science or aerospace. Enrollment in advanced math has tripled. And the four-year graduation rate is 94 percent — a figure enviable even among the state’s most privileged districts.

Go here to read the full story.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: STEM, Toppenish High School

June 14, 2014 at 5:11 PM

Guest: How Toppenish turned cow parts into a STEM partnership

WA-Trevor_Greene

Trevor Greene

“What do you do with the eyeballs?” I asked, as dozens of them looked back at me from the plastic container. I was halfway though a student tour of AB Foods, a state-of-the-art processing plant and largest employer in Toppenish, when the potential for a partnership with Toppenish High School came to mind.

The tour guide had already shared that, aside from producing more than 200 million pounds of boxed beef annually, almost every part of the animal was utilized: hides for leather, meat and bone meal for organic fertilizers, dried blood for fish food, and tallow for bio-fuel production, to name a few.

An hour later, an informal conversation with CEO Brad McDowell secured a commitment to support the high school with eyeballs, beef hearts, and occasional joints for the newly established biomedical program. McDowell appreciated the chance to help community students in a sustainable manner that didn’t include repeated fiscal donations.

Within a year, McDowell and many other business people were serving on advisory boards for many of Toppenish High’s STEM courses, which were cross-credited and designated “Career and Technical Education” (CTE) classes. Cross-crediting the STEM courses meant that each class could meet a graduation requirement in more than one area, affording students flexibility in scheduling and allowing them to take more electives. Student enrollment numbers have continued to increase, and more than 20 district staff members completed their CTE certification just this year.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: STEM, Toppenish High School, Trevor Greene

June 14, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Your voices: What does STEM mean to you?

 

 

Armando Bravo

Armando Bravo


STEM for me is an opportunity for success.
What better way to experience the work field or major you would like to be in? Consider taking a STEM class — you won’t regret it.

Armando Bravo, Toppenish High School (Toppenish)

 

 

 

Daniel Doan

Daniel Doan

STEM is unity. It is that awareness of knowing who has what to offer — and everyone has something to offer. Simply put, it’s this idea of coming together as a whole to contribute that final product or that final play or that final grade.

—Daniel Doan, Cleveland High School (Seattle)

christinalindberg4

Christina Lindberg

STEM is the part of my education that is preparing me for the real world. As science expands, so should the material being taught in order to make kids ready for future jobs. It doesn’t help to teach the same curriculum they had 10 years ago because science has expanded since then, and so should the curriculum.

—Christina Lindberg, Inglemoor High School (Kenmore)

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Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: STEM, Toppenish High School, your voices

June 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Rewind: Chat about how schools are rethinking STEM

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In Sunday’s paper, Education Lab reporter Claudia Rowe examines how one Eastern Washington high school has found success in rethinking its approach to STEM education.

But Toppenish isn’t the only Washington school that’s earned recognition for STEM. Join us at noon this Tuesday, June 17, for a discussion about what educators around the region are doing to make science, technology, engineering and math more relevant and engaging to today’s students.

Toppenish High School senior Armando Bravo displays the robot he and his robotic club team took to California earlier this year for an international competition. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Toppenish High School senior Armando Bravo displays the robot he and his robotic club team took to California earlier this year for an international competition. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Our live chat will be facilitated by Rowe and include the following panelists:

  • Armando Bravo, a recent graduate of Toppenish High School. Bravo, whose parents work at a nearby beef-processing plant, has participated in the school’s robotics club and will start at Central Washington University this fall as a construction management major.
  • Catherine Brown, academic dean at Cleveland High School in Seattle. At Cleveland, a new focus on science and technology projects has coincided with a 22-point increase in reading scores, a 15-point increase in the graduation rate and a 100-student surge in enrollment.
  • Danette Driscoll, principal at Riverpoint Academy in Spokane. At Riverpoint, students gather in an enormous hangar-like room each morning, before peeling off to work on team engineering projects all day.
  • Caroline King, Washington STEM’s Chief Policy Officer. King leads the organization’s advocacy efforts to build a robust and diverse movement in support of improving STEM education.
  • Shawn Myers, a former biology teacher who now teaches engineering design and biomedical intervention at Toppenish.
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Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: live chat, STEM, Toppenish High School

June 13, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tech-based high school sending 98 percent of grads to college

The national landscape in science and math education is so spotty that federal advisers warn it could have serious repercussions for the U.S. economy. No surprise, then, public schools devoted to these subjects are starting to attract a lot of attention.

One of them, Toppenish High, will be the subject of Sunday’s Education Lab story for a number of notable qualities.

Another, Riverpoint Academy in Spokane’s Mead School District, stands out as much for its heartening results (64 out of 65 graduating seniors are headed to college) as for its unusual approach to teaching. Aimed only at juniors and seniors, Riverpoint gathers its students in an enormous hangar-like room each morning, where they peel off to work on team engineering projects all day.

There are no traditional subject classes or regular class periods (except for math, which is taught first thing each morning). Instead, students spend four hours on “Human-Centered Design,” which includes a half-credit of social studies and environmental science. And then “Inventioneering,” which includes English, science, computer coding and social studies.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Riverpoint Academy, STEM, Toppenish High School