Standard 1.8. STEM learning outcomes demonstrate students’ STEM literacy necessary for the next level of STEM learning and for post-secondary and workforce readiness.

Fulton Science Academy Private School measures learning outcomes through a variety of means, because taking one data point or using one method may provide a skewed view of a student’s knowledge and abilities. Although sometimes not popular, assessments are the only way to really know what areas of opportunity and/or knowledge deficiencies a student has, so that we may target instruction in a focused and individualized manner for better outcomes. Also, students may perform differently on how and what material is assessed. The goal of using many types of assessments is to develop a true measure or picture of a students’ retention of material and their ability to use that knowledge in a meaningful way, as well as, to inform instruction.

Our school uses multiple traditional assessments for accountability. Within the classroom, teachers use pre-assessments, formative, and summative assessments. Pre-assessments are used to determine instructional focus areas, formative assessments are used to monitor for student understanding, and summative assessments are used to determine concept mastery. Summative assessments may be written assessments, online tests, projects, and/or performance-based assessments. As previously mentioned, projects, presentations, and hands-on activities are integral components of our assessment and grading system. They demonstrate not only student knowledge, but their ability to utilize that knowledge beyond multiple choice.

For more objective data and to measure student growth, the nationally normed NWEA MAP assessment is administered three times each year. MAP is used to measure the growth of students in the areas of mathematics, science, and language arts. We use the data collected, course grades, and teacher feedback to better inform the instructional placement of students. Our data team regularly meets to generate SWOT analyzes using both course and MAP data. This data is then used to create school improvement goals and to monitor student progress. Based off of the data analysis, teachers determine the next best steps for student instruction. As we work closely with parents in student advancement, they are provided with MAP testing results at the conclusion of each testing session, so that they can partner with us in addressing any identified student gaps or deficiencies. If adjustments to a student’s instructional level need to be made after analysis of assessment results, teachers will communicate their recommendation to administration and their placement level will change. For older students, there are also the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP exams, which play a role in determining student placement and the path that they will ultimately take.  

Beyond traditional test scores used to measure academic knowledge, we determined that students needed a pathway to develop their talents and pursue self-directed interests, while acquiring the 21st century skills they would need to be truly successful. After a great deal of research, discussion, and planning, the STEAM Enrichment Program was created.

As part of this program, all students in the middle school are provided a dedicated forty minute period four days per week to work on a team developed STEAM project. Teachers act only as guiding facilitators, while the projects themselves are determined and produced by the students. The teams are student-determined and may include students from multiple grades with a shared area of interest, passion, talent, or goal. The only STEAM. enrichment project requirements are that they must fall within a STEAM education category, have a social impact, address a real world problem or issue, and that the project must culminate in a product that can be shared and/or demonstrated in a public manner.

Products produced as part of the project might include, but are not limited to, books, plays, science demonstrations, artwork, a model, oral presentations, videos, robots, inventions, apps, etc. At the end of each semester, students present their projects at the FSAPS STEAM Expo. However, students may also enter their projects in other competitions or showcases, such as GT Inventure Challenge and Atlanta Makers Faire.

This project based program is designed to help our students develop life and career skills, such as conflict resolution and project management skills while incorporating the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Additionally, through the process of creating their STEAM projects students further develop their presentation, writing, organization, and time-management abilities. Finally, requiring that all projects have a social impact compels our students to address authentic and complex problems that impact society as a whole.

The STEAM Enrichment Program has been highly successful in engaging students, reinforcing knowledge, identifying areas of interest, helping students find hidden talents, and has provided a pathway for students to learn necessary intrinsic skills and abilities to help them reach their full potential.

Our students also enjoy using technology from pre-kindergarten through high school. The utilization of technology within learning activities comes naturally to our students due to their weekly computer and engineering courses. The technological skills they acquire are applied throughout their coursework each week. Students even collaborate through Google Docs. Additionally, the STEAM Enrichment Program requires students to create project blogs, which helps them become more comfortable with this newer form of communication. To advance the use and productivity of technology in instructional practices our teachers share best practices during their professional learning time. This daily 35 to 40 minute collaborative professional learning period is designed to be instrumental in equipping our teachers with the skills and resources to prepare their weekly lesson plans and STEAM units.

Computer Science, Robotics, and Engineering are weekly classes for all students in pre-K through the 8th grade. All students receive grades in these classes and projects are increasingly rigorous as students matriculate from one grade to the next. Further, our high school students all take AP Computer Science as a required elective and we have a 100% pass rate at 3 and above. Additionally, many students participate in STEM academic clubs after school for further enrichment and study in their specific areas of interest.

However, it is our academic teams’ performances and individual competition placements that truly measure our students’ abilities in STEM areas and demonstrate their post-secondary and workforce readiness. This would not be notable except 80% of our students participate in at least one academic teams and/or individual competition, so it is a good measure of our students’ proficiency in applying STEM knowledge and skills. Our FSAPS Robotics Teams regularly advances to the state competition level and for the last three years they have represented Georgia in national and even international competitions. Future City is an emerging academic team and they took second place in the state competition this year. Technology Fair has a huge participation rate in our school and like robotics our students continually advance to the state competition level. Further, students participate and do well in Google Challenge, Georgia Tech Scratch, and other individual competitions and challenges, as well.

For math and science, our students and teams demonstrate advanced proficiency in both Science Olympiad and Math Counts advancing to the state and national levels for the past several years. Notably, we have elementary, middle, and high school teams for both of these STEM areas. Currently, we are ranked 21st in Science Olympiad and several of our students were on Georgia’s Math Counts Team with our very own Ms. Duzyol coaching the team representing Georgia. Our students and coach were both recognized for their significant contribution in moving Georgia into an increasingly more positive placement over the last two years, from 27th place to 13th place to where Georgia currently resides in 4th place.

FSAPS students’ participation and performances in academic competitions, clubs, and enrichment studies where they apply the knowledge and skills they learned demonstrate proficiency, confidence, collaborative abilities, complex thinking, and creativity. More importantly they don’t engage in these activities, because it is required or for a grade. This more than anything else means that we were successful in helping students find their academic passion and instilling in them a love of learning.