A key feature of the West Dallas STEM School is a strategic collaboration with the nonprofit sector to provide embedded or nearby social services that will directly support PreK-8 students, families, school staff, and the broader community.
A portion of the $2 million planning grant made to SMU by Toyota has been sub-granted to convene three cohorts of nonprofits to increase their learning and readiness capacity for possible participation in the school. A pilot cohort of six nonprofits – AVANCE North Texas, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Dallas Afterschool, Mercy Street, The Concilio, and Wesley-Rankin Community Center – met for five months during the 2019 spring semester to engage in planning and capacity building work.
The topics they tackled included learning the history of West Dallas for current context, understanding community cultural wealth, identifying opportunities for continuous improvement, building a collaborative culture, and exploring to school-community partnerships.
Cohort II begins in March 2020 and will include nine sessions with up to 12 participating nonprofit organizations. “The first cohort served as a pilot, providing learning opportunities for nonprofit participants and those of us planning the sessions,” said Erin O. Crosby, a co-lead for the Community Development Design Team representing SMU, DISD, and Toyota. “Having three years to plan a school is a gift, especially when co-designing features like wraparound services to benefit everyone in the school as well as the broader community. We want the nonprofits to feel ready and be ready to succeed in this new and innovative space on day one.”
In the spring of 2019, the West Dallas STEM School partnership began collaborating with Gabe Allen Elementary School’s principal Sheila Ortiz Espinell to support teacher learning.
Members of the professional learning design team, led by SMU Simmons professor Annie Wilhelm, Ph.D., and Dallas ISD’s Shannon Terry, Ph.D., met with Ms. Ortiz and her leadership team to learn more about their school and their vision for where the school was headed.
Similar meetings were held with the faculty to determine what should be included in professional learning, and the result was to focus on writing and project-based learning for science classes.
Assistant Professor Amy Gillespie Rouse at SMU Simmons started monthly professional development sessions for third to fifth-grade teachers on writing-to-learn. Also, SMU Research Assistant Professor Jeanna Wieselmann laid the foundation for project-based learning in science. The project-based unit is developed with fifth-grade science teachers who will be the first to implement it in mid-February. The intent is for the other grade levels also to have the opportunity to experience project-based learning this year.
The partnership will continue into the 2021-22 school year, and respond to the emerging needs of the campus community.
Simmons Associate Professor Candace Walkington and North Central Texas College’s Elizabeth Howell collaborated on research that examines the support systems in community colleges for students who are under-prepared in math when they enrolled. Their article is published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.
The study looks at two 5-year longitudinal data sets of community college students to explore factors associated with successful outcomes in developmental mathematics. Additional linear regression models examine the time required to complete developmental coursework. Tutoring has a strong association with positive student outcomes, as do full-time enrollment and developmental mathematics coursework grades. Implications for developmental mathematics programs in community college settings are discussed.
Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People published a special section on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education, including an article on the design and planning for the new West Dallas STEM school. The work for the PreK-8 school is supported by a $2 million grant provided by Toyota USA Foundation to SMU Simmons. Read more about the partnership between Simmons, Dallas ISD, Toyota, and members of the West Dallas communities.
The strength of a dedicated partnership between SMU Simmons, Dallas ISD, and Toyota to create a new STEM school in West Dallas will create new opportunities for students and their families, says Dean Stephanie L. Knight in a commentary published in The Dallas Morning News, November 26, 2019. Her op-ed was written in response to a city-wide challenge issued by the chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council to bridge the economic divide found in under-resourced areas.
Toyota awarded a $2 million planning grant to the Simmons School for the development of a new STEM pre-K to eighth-grade school, and Dallas ISD anticipates opening the school in 2021. Read more.
As a future workforce takes shape, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) plays a foundational role in education. To examine how business and education are collaborating on STEM, Dallas Innovates, a publishing venture between the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce and D Magazine Partners, invited a panel of experts to talk about the advancement.
Dean Stephanie Knight joined eight other leaders in the conversation, “STEM, STEAM, STREAM: In Dallas the Ingridients Are Here.” Read the three-part series:
Simmons Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller joins SMU Lyle’s Assistant Professor Corey Clark, also deputy director of research at Guildhall, and Associate Professor Eric Larson to research teaching computer science and computational thinking through the popular video game, Minecraft.
With a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, they will examine the fields of game design, human-computer interaction, machine learning, curriculum design, and education assessment by integrating STEM+C (computing) based curriculum directly into Minecraft.
Ketterlin Geller is engaged in research and scholarship focused on supporting all students in mathematics education through application of instructional leadership principles and practices.
Associate Professor Annie Wilhelm and fellow researchers from North Carolina State received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year study of elementary and middle school mathematics instructional practice to respond to the growing needs of students who historically have been underserved in mathematics classes.
The project, Validation of the Equity and Access Rubrics for Mathematics Instruction (VEAR-MI), seeks to move the conversation beyond ambitious instruction and take initial steps towards specifying and measuring practices to support students in gaining access and more equitably participating in mathematics classes.
The goal is to provide foundational knowledge for improving mathematics teaching and learning, and address the critical need for research that directly links instructional practices to student achievement and participation.
Toyota, Dallas Independent School District, and SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development formed a partnership one year ago to develop a new STEM-focused school in West Dallas. This past year, the partnership successfully laid the foundation for collaboration and planning.
“Our partnership works because Toyota helps us understand industry goals,” says Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight. “Dallas ISD, one of the largest school districts in the country, knows how to help public school students thrive and the West Dallas Community stakeholders provide insight into its needs. SMU is charged with providing research and evaluation that will enable us to improve public education.”
Six core teams have been actively engaged in co-design, focusing on curriculum, professional learning and distributed leadership, building design, community development, and research and evaluation. These teams also have participating members from West Dallas communities.
Additionally, support teams have focused on developing data infrastructure to support research and continuous improvements, developing communications strategies, and anticipating long-term sustainable funding.
Planning for the school is supported by a three-year, $2M grant from Toyota to Simmons. The school is expected to open in 2021.