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Arizona High School to Offer New STEM Diplomas

We've written recently about the growth of STEM-focused schools, but here's an interesting twist: An Arizona school district recently announced plans to offer two specialized STEM diplomas at a high school.

The Chandler Unified School District, starting next school year, will make available an advanced pathway in the STEM fields at Perry High School in Gilbert. Students can enroll in either the STEM Diploma program or the more rigorous STEM Scholar Diploma program.

The governing board for the Chandler district, south of Phoenix, recently approved the plans for Perry High, according to a story in the East Valley Tribune newspaper.

Both diploma programs would involve students taking additional, as well as more rigorous, STEM coursework than is generally required to graduate.

A district letter to families explains the new offerings, which are aimed at preparing students for "college readiness in science, medicine, engineering, and math majors."

The district is working with higher education institutions—including Arizona State University Polytechnic—to provide opportunities for students to take college courses, the Tribune says. Furthermore, students will be required to take STEM workshops, possibly at ASU, and complete a job-shadow experience before their senior year, the story adds.

A separate story from the Arizona Republic says the program was modeled after similar offerings at Benton High School in Louisiana and CREST, a small specialty school in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Students in both STEM programs at Perry High will be required to complete five credits of math, including AP Statistics, and six credits of science (or a combination of science and engineering coursework). Among the classes required for the STEM Scholar diploma are AP Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus, as well as a course on differential equations. Electives include human biology, biotechnology, and computer science. Students, of course, also must take a full plate of courses outside the STEM fields, including AP English and American History.

Both programs also will emphasize project-based learning and providing students with what the district calls "real-world" experiences.

Although I'm not familiar with the idea of a STEM diploma, I do know that plenty of STEM-focused schools are cropping up around the country. An EdWeek story from last fall provided a closer look, as did a recent post on this blog. In some ways, the new diploma programs at Perry High School may well resemble the extra offerings students receive at some STEM schools.

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