Statesboro STEAM College, Careers, Arts and Technology Academy began using a STEAM or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math approach three years ago. Previously, the 6th through 12th grade public charter school, which is authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission, used a constructivism model. Corliss Reese, Director and Superintendent of Statesboro STEAM Academy, says students are more engaged under the new approach and are gaining the tools necessary to be successful in college and future careers.
“We’ve seen an increase in test scores since we’ve gone to this model,” says Reese. “Our students are also more excited about school overall.”
In 2016 and 2017, high school students at Statesboro STEAM beat the district on the College and Career Ready Performance index. However, the school’s middle school has struggled since the school started. That’s why Reese and his staff were so encouraged by this year’s CCRPI score. In 2017, middle school students received a 55.5 on the CCRPI. In 2018, on the newly revised CCRPI, middle school students improved their score by more than 14 points. Reese says the increase is evidence that the school’s STEAM approach coupled with blended learning and remediation for struggling students is working.
“To see this turnaround was exciting, especially for our middle school teachers,” says Reese. “They have a renewed sense of motivation.”
To improve scores, Reese examined previous test scores in areas like math to identify what year students began experiencing challenges. During the last school year, students were grouped accordingly and worked on previous standards on Fridays. Reese says it helped students close gaps. This year, the school built remediation into its school day. Students can receive tutoring assistance during electives or throughout the day. Reese says the flexibility given to charter schools has allowed him to make quick and student-centered changes that have paid off.
The public charter school prides itself on being unique.
“At Statesboro STEAM, we truly believe in representing what the charter movement is all about: providing something different and working very hard to ensure that we stay different, says Reese. “Statesboro STEAM is a place where learning truly is fun.”
Students who come to Statesboro STEAM before school engage in what’s called the “Morning
Mingle.” During the “Morning Mingle,” teachers talk with students in the school’s cafeteria, Reese plays music from a DJ booth, and students often engage in dancing. The school also has a 15-minute break later in the day where students serve as DJs and students are encouraged to take a break from class and visit with each other. Reese says the “Morning Mingle” and the daily break helps students lower stress levels and form life-changing relationships with teachers and their peers.
“I don’t think a lot of adults understand how much stress pre-teens and teens have these days. There is social media and bullying. These students have to manage a personal life, a social life and an academic life,” says Reese. “Coming into an environment like this where you can feel comfortable in your own skin, and you can express yourself, you can talk to your teachers and know that they are going to respond to you in love, it makes it easier to come to school.”
Reese believes the school’s culture encourages students to excel. He says students form close bonds with their teachers and want to work hard so they can live up to their expectations.
“Seeing kids make progress, seeing children who came in struggling turn into kids who are outperforming and excelling in high school, that’s what keeps me going,” says Reese, “We’ve set up a culture so that when students come here, they can leave many of their problems behind.”