Georgia Tech and the K-12 Pipeline

At the end of the fall semester, in partnership with the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), the Office of the Provost hosted a K-12 Summit, bringing together academic and research leaders from across the Institute to talk about K-12 education. I suspect this was the first such gathering in recent history. The goal of the day was to learn about the breadth of K-12 activities currently underway, and to find opportunities to collaborate and partner going forward. The meeting was attended by about 100 colleagues, and I was blown away by the sheer volume of impactful activities — both at the unit and Institute-levels — that are ongoing.

During any year, because of Georgia Tech, young people participate in summer camps, attend an annual Latino STEM Fair, compete in science and engineering competitions, and serve as research assistants in faculty labs. That outreach also extends to teachers. The Georgia Internship for Teachers (GIFT) program places 60 teachers per year in Georgia Tech labs and STEM companies for six-week summer internships.

These ideas are built upon a vision and legacy of partnership with the K-12 community through programs such as CEISMC and Project ENGAGES, among others. CEISMC alone serves more than 11,000 students, 1,000 teachers, and 200 schools in 100 school districts each year. Because of these programs and others, we have strong partnerships with Atlanta Public Schools, metro-area county school systems, and with public and private donors such as The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Goizueta Foundation, and Google. CEISMC is also active on a national level, with more than $7 million in National Science Foundation research funding to develop innovative, evidence-based STEM curricula and pedagogy.

These are just a few examples. There are many, many more. To get an idea of some of the many programs and initiatives going on around campus, I encourage you to visit the Georgia Tech K-12 Connection.

K-12 education is not Georgia Tech’s primary mission, but I do believe it is a vital part of the educational ecosystem. It is the pipeline that brings students to Georgia Tech. A strong K-12 system means Georgia’s most talented students find themselves at Georgia Tech. Even more so, it means a larger pool of Georgia students are prepared and ready, and also see Georgia Tech as their school of choice. That happens when students have access to higher-quality teaching and schools.

The Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) goes a step further and argues that the “artificial” barriers between conventional schooling at different levels will not be supported in the United States of 2040 and beyond, and that Georgia Tech should work to eliminate those barriers. I will whet your appetite by advancing that they will be arguing for a concept titled “The Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education” that includes the idea of a future “not marked by arbitrary entries on a calendar, but one with numerous entry and exit points where students associate with rather than enroll at Georgia Tech.” This lifetime vision of engagement extends from kindergarten to forever. A first step in that direction would be to organize our many activities in order to promote synergies, increase efficiencies, and provide easy entry to that aspect of Georgia Tech by organizations and the public at large.

Following in the success of the first K-12 Summit and anticipating the recommendations of the CNE, I have asked CEISMC Director Lizanne DeStefano and Associate Provost for Operations Jennifer Herazy to develop a preliminary road map to guide stakeholder discussions that will lead to a plan for a coordinated K-12 strategy. Stay tuned and look for the forthcoming CNE report to learn more about the vision for a lifetime commitment for the Georgia Tech of 2040 and beyond.

-Rafael L. Bras

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