• Jackson Middle is Collaborative, Innovative, Community-Focused, and now, STEM-Certified

    Jackson Middle School has achieved a new mark of distinction — STEM certification by AdvancED, the nation’s premier education accrediting agency.

    Based on AdvancED’s standard that “STEM students have the skills, knowledge, and thinking strategies that prepare them to be innovative, creative, and systematic problem-solvers in STEM fields of study and work,” Jackson, just beginning its fourth year as a designated “STEM” school, received the news this week of full-accreditation.

    “To have the AdvancED seal of approval for the STEM magnet program at Jackson Middle School is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the administration and staff of that school,” Chief Officer of Administration Mr. King Laurence commented. “It also provides an assurance to the families of Aiken County that a first class STEM program is available right here at home.”

    To earn the certification, Jackson Middle demonstrated their implementation of STEM programming, curriculum, and community involvement as measured by a variety of indicators related to the learner, educator, and experiences afforded to students. AdvancED’s STEM indicators include reaching underrepresented groups, creating an inquiry-based learning environment, implementing an interdisciplinary problem-based curriculum focused on real world applications, fostering educator collaboration, and building community, post-secondary, business and industry partnerships that support teachers and students in their STEM studies, among many more.

    “Jackson is now one of 54 nationally accredited STEM programs in the WORLD,” an elated Mr. Jason Holt, Jackson’s Principal, commented of the distinction. “

    According to Holt, the school’s STEM Advisory Council and Teacher Leadership Team decided last January they wanted to legitimize what they were doing. “Anyone really could call themselves a ‘STEM’ school,” he said. “We wanted to be measured, certified and accredited and to embrace our philosophy of evaluation for continuous improvement against national, research-based standards.”

    AdvancED’s STEM Certification Reviewers were at the middle school Monday and Tuesday to examine Jackson’s evidence of quality STEM education provided to the review team beforehand through classroom observations focused on student engagement and collaboration in the learning process using the Effective Observation Tool (eleot). The review team also interviewed school administrators, faculty and staff, parents, students and outside partners to verify the school’s commitment to connecting students’ STEM studies to our local community and world.

    The school received a perfect score on AdvanceED’s success indicator for real-world relevance. “Our teachers are motivated to reach outside of their classrooms and outside of our school to make connections,” Holt commented of the many community partnerships, including those with engineers and scientists at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site and manufacturers at Bridgestone, that have characterized Jackson’s project-based, authentic learning experiences. “Our community partners have been willing, encouraging and just haven’t said no often,” he continued.

    AdvancED accreditation marks one of many distinctions for Aiken County’s first STEM-magnet. Jackson Middle has received numerous Palmetto Gold & Silver Awards from the State Department of Education, a Making Middle Grades Work Depth of Implementation Award and a STEM Implementation Award from the Southern Regional Education Board. Additionally, Mr. Holt, who has served as Principal of Jackson Middle throughout their transition to a STEM school, received the Robert E. Alexander Administrator of the Year Award from USC Aiken in December 2015.

    “We’re proud to be both an AdvancED accredited school district and to have such high distinction for our first STEM magnet school,” Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford commented. “Attaining STEM certification at this level is a strong indication of our community and school district’s commitment to collaboration in order to prepare students for their future.”

    “There’s a true sense of teamwork among our public schools, teachers, families, businesses and the community at large in Aiken County,” Alford continued. “When all of that comes together as it has at Jackson, everyone reaps the rewards and should share in the celebration. Congratulations ONE TEAM!”