Tech Takes Over
Photography provided by Sarah Trimble-Oliver/CPS
It’s no secret that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has emerged as one of the most talked-about concepts in education. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has responded to the demand for tech-savvy professionals by offering STEM education in a multitude of ways so that students graduate better prepared for the current career climate.
While each school concentrates on a specific program focus, from the arts to the sciences, STEM is integrated across the district in some capacity. According to Sarah Trimble-Oliver, the chief information officer for CPS, “All of our high schools have a huge tech integration effort so that even if tech is not their program focus, they are still taking advantage of the power of technology for all of their
content. We have invested in over 20,000 laptop devices in our high schools in the last few years, and we also have a district-wide learning management system called Schoology where all of their online class work is stored in one place.”
Among the technical education offerings in CPS, two schools stand out for their focus on STEM. Hughes and Taft IT are the high schools of choice for students who want to pursue STEM careers. “Hands down, [Hughes and Taft IT] are the high schools that have adopted and fully integrated the use of technology throughout the school, and they’ve done that for years,” says Kelly Broscheid, CPS Career Technical Education Administrator. “The district’s commitment has created some fabulous opportunities for our students.”
Trimble-Oliver agrees. “Hughes and Taft IT have that focus on career fields that we know are in high demand. We are continually looking at opportunities for our students to be exposed to content within whatever is the latest and greatest and hottest technology.”
At the moment, according to Trimble-Oliver, cybersecurity experts are in huge demand, and CPS has responded. “If we can graduate our students with those skills, there is an opportunity for them to go directly into a high-paying career field,” she says.
Before students can graduate, they must meet certain requirements established by the Ohio Department of Education. The built-in flexibility of those requirements has allowed CPS to tailor pathways to graduation to the strengths and goals of the students through their Advanced Placement Blended Learning program. “One of those pathways to graduation is a student earning an industry-recognized credential. It’s competency-based learning,” says Broscheid.
Because of its near-universal usefulness, CPS offers students an opportunity to earn that industry-recognized credential via Microsoft Office Specialist Certification. “We know that use of those tools is everywhere,” Broscheid says. “You can go anywhere and the use of [MS Office] is integral to what most people will do within their careers. Students actually take an MS certification test once they complete the content, and those credentials can be used as a pathway to graduation.”
Another crucial initiative Hughes and Taft IT have taken to ensure post-high school readiness is partnering with businesses and colleges, like Cincinnati Bell and the University of Cincinnati. “We have a very strong partnership with UC,” says Broscheid. “They provide mentors, student mentors. When you walk into our classroom, it feels like a worksite.”
Students have also taken advantage of summer internship opportunities at UC as a direct response to that relationship. “They’re working this summer in different areas of the college and getting paid. We’re trying to make more of that happen,” says Broscheid. “It takes a lot of time to build those partnerships, but we’re always seeking more. That’s where they’ll really be able to see what it’s like to do that work.”
Ultimately, the goals of Hughes and Taft IT are the same as any secondary education institution: to prepare students to succeed in the real world upon graduation.
“Many of the students are moving on to the post-secondary level in various ways. Some in two-year programs, some in four-year programs, some seeking some training and then going into work,” says Broscheid. “We know that if we can get them committed to looking at what their future holds and exposing them to all the different opportunities, there are many pathways that they can take.”
“These students are using industry-standard career tools that people in the industry use,” adds Trimble-Oliver. “It’s taking the power of technology to transform the classrooms.”
Cincinnati Public Schools Central Office is located at 2651 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219. For more information, call 513.363.0000 or visit www.cps-k12.org.