Every student is entitled to a high-quality, engaging STEM education. But it won’t happen without careful planning. It is the role of educators to help create inspiring and student-centered learning opportunities that give students a firm pathway to success.
At Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, students are thriving in STEM-powered classrooms where 1:1 mobile learning across every school has leveled the playing field, ensuring each student has an opportunity to succeed. Dr. Candace Singh, superintendent of Fallbrook Union, has helped hone the instructional practices of her district, and will be sharing a few pages from her playbook at an upcoming Discovery Education event, alongside Eric Forseth, Fallbrook Union’s superintendent of educational services.
Dr. Singh and Forseth will co-host a session at Discovery Education’s Powerful Practices event in San Francisco, CA on February 24, featuring their district’s innovative and systemic approach to providing high quality STEM learning experiences.
Q: You’re hosting a session at Powerful Practices this year — what message will you be bringing to the conference?
SINGH: We are pleased to be a part of a group of forward-thinking educators who will be gathered in San Francisco to share innovative practices that support students in becoming college and career ready. Our message will focus on leveraging excellence in instruction with rigorous and meaningful content to raise expectations and academic achievement for all students.
Q: What is your district’s goal with its STEAM program, and what do you think sets it apart from other districts?
SINGH: Our district serves a highly diverse population, including military-connected families, English learners, and students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Our goal is to provide each of them with an academic program that is highly engaging, relevant, and aligned to their future world of work. What is unique in our approach is our commitment to ensuring that every child in every school in our district has access to innovative, personalized, and integrated learning experiences, not just those who may be in a STEM focused school or classroom.
Q: What do you think the future looks like for STEM education?
FORSETH: In a constantly evolving field, educators must embrace an innovator’s mindset, as George Couros describes so well. While STEM education has taken root in many places across the country, there are still far too many schools where students and their teachers do not have access to innovative technology that supports personalized learning to access rigorous content in the STEM fields. If we want all students to be prepared for their future, promising practices that ensure equity, promote creativity, and foster in-depth learning, like the ones being shared in this conference, must become a greater part of the professional learning for more teachers and school leaders.
Q: How has Fallbrook helped support equity, and why was this a priority for the district?
FORSETH: Too often, innovative learning opportunities are left to chance through the acceptance and promotion of pockets of excellence, pioneering teachers, or early adopters as strategies to provide engaging STEM instruction. While these approaches are appropriate in some circumstances, they don’t align with our commitment to educational equity for all students.
We believe all students are entitled to a high quality and engaging STEM education, and as instructional leaders we have been intentional in our efforts to create inspiring and student-centered schools for all of our students. One of the simple criteria we have in our district to measure and reflect on our effectiveness is to ask ourselves if we would want our own children and/or grandchildren to be students in our classrooms. Every family wants this kind of engaging and meaningful learning for their children.
Q: How are you supporting teachers to help them grow their STEM/STEAM instructional skills?
SINGH: Building the professional capacity of our teachers has been a priority for our district for the last six years.
One highly impactful strategy includes STEM focused instructional coaches who are assigned to every school to provide job-embedded, personalized learning and support for every teacher through modeled lessons, co-planning and co-teaching of lessons, participation in grade level planning and collaboration, and the facilitation of hands-on Innovation Labs for students. As 1:1 mobile devices have been deployed throughout the district, our STEM coaches have worked with classroom teachers to enhance instructional practice with technology, introduce a district-wide digital citizenship curriculum, and lead parent education.
Another example includes our commitment to providing teachers with the necessary time to effectively plan and prepare for technology-infused instruction. Each week, teachers are provided with 100 minutes of individual planning and preparation time, in addition to a student early-release day dedicated to structured teacher collaboration. During this time, grade level teams and departments collaboratively design enhanced STEM learning experiences for students through the effective use of technology.
Q: What do you think other districts could learn from a visit to see some of Fallbrook’s schools’ inner workings?
SINGH: We regularly host visitors from other schools and districts, and they routinely comment on the skills of our teachers and leaders to create educational learning environments that are engaging, supportive, and personalized for our students. We have been highly consistent in our focus to improve instructional practices, while simultaneously developing school cultures that honor every child and support high expectations for their learning. Our teachers are very reflective and collaborative, and we are always so humbled to share our own professional learning with colleagues, knowing the potential impact it has on students in other communities.
For information on attending this year’s free Powerful Practices events in San Francisco and Seattle, visit the official website.
At Powerful Practices, attendees will:
- Hear from nationally renowned experts as they address equity and excellence.
- Collaborate with colleagues in breakout sessions featuring powerful practices in the areas of personalized learning, student engagement, culturally responsive classrooms, and formative assessment.
- Participate in interactive hands-on activities highlighting student-centered learning practices.
- Attend a panel discussion in which regional colleagues discuss powerful strategies to get teachers to best practices.
All registered attendees will have access to the following breakout sessions:
- Personalized Learning
- Culturally Responsive Classrooms
- Student Engagement
- Instructional Leadership Best Practices in Math, Social Studies, Science, and STEM