East Coweta in running for best STEM school

East Coweta High School has been named one of six finalists for best Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) high schools in Georgia by the Technology Association of Georgia. Pictured in an East Coweta classroom lab are students Cassie Bure, front, and Hyein Kim. Photo/Special.

East Coweta High School and the Coweta STEM Consortium have been named as finalists in the statewide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competition sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Winners in the award categories will be announced later this month.

East Coweta was named Aug. 30 as one of six finalists for the best STEM high schools in Georgia and the Coweta STEM Consortium, a coalition of nine Coweta businesses offering internships to Coweta’s high school students in STEM-related fields, was named one of seven finalists in the TAG Business Outreach category, according to Coweta County School System spokesman Dean Jackson.

The annual STEM Awards were created by TAG and the TAG Education Collaborative (TAG-Ed) to recognize and celebrate schools, extracurricular programs, public-private partnerships, science agencies and post-secondary education outreach programs in STEM education.  Selection as a finalist for the annual awards recognizes leading initiatives and schools in Georgia that promote student achievement and support of  science, technology, engineering, and math education in Georgia, Jackson said.

East Coweta High School was nominated for a STEM award this year based on the high school’s sponsorship of several innovative STEM programs, including East Coweta’s  “Math and Science Academy,” the school’s Science Olympiad Team and the school’s efforts to expand student participation in STEM internships and high-level STEM-related coursework, Jackson said.

ECHS chemistry teacher Martha Milam said that the high school’s teachers and administrators are strongly involved in the development of STEM academic content and student opportunities, and the school’s focus has increased student STEM participation significantly.

“I have taught at East Coweta High School for six years, and in that short time I have seen dramatic improvement in all of our academics, including STEM,” said Milam. “We offer a total of 17 advanced placement (AP) courses, and students are filling up these classes. The faculty has raised the expectation level that we have for our students, and our students have risen to the challenge.”

In 2013, East Coweta had 45 graduates who completed an AP math or AP science course during their high school and last year 197 students took at least one AP math or science course during the year, said Jackson. A Science Olympiad team consists of a group of 15 students who compete in 23 science and engineering event, and since 2011 participation in the Olympiad has grown from one to three teams, Jackson added.

“We are one of the top ten largest Science Olympiad teams in Georgia. I like to think of East Coweta High School as a 5A team in Science Olympiad, and STEM, as well as on the football field,” said Milam.

In 2012, Coweta County School System’s Central Educational Center was named a finalist in the first annual STEM Education Awards in the high school category for its efforts to promote STEM education in the classroom and through work-study programs throughout the community.

Superintendent Steve Barker and Central Educational Center CEO Mark Whitlock attended TAG’s annual conference and awards ceremony in 2012, representing CEC and the Coweta County School System.

“After listening to the award winners from around the state describe their partnerships with business and industry, I quickly realized that the Coweta County School System partnerships that exist with local business and industry rival any from around the state,” said Barker.  “It was after returning from the event that Mr. Whitlock and I challenged Donald White, our science content specialist, to prepare an application for these awards on behalf of the combined efforts of Newnan High School, Northgate High School, East Coweta High School, the Central Educational Center and our local business community.”

Those efforts have come most recently by the Coweta STEM Consortium, through which STEM internships have been developed for Coweta County high school students. The programs, operated through CEC’s work-study program, involve the placement of Coweta high school students in internship and apprenticeship positions at nine local companies, including Coweta Water and Sewerage Authority, Newnan Utilities, Georgia Power Company, Grenzebach Corporation, Piedmont-Newnan Hospital, Kason Industries, Hanger Prosthetics, Yokogawa Corporation of America and Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation.