At PCSSD, STEM is lit

By Jessica Duff

The Pulaski County Special School District boasts many dedicated educators and administrators from 26 schools across central Arkansas, which includes the DRIVEN Virtual Academy now starting its third year with the district. PCSSD Director of STEM, Dr. Justin Luttrell, is looking forward to another year of the STEM is LIT program and what is to come in the field of STEM.

“STEM is LIT! is an initiative to expose students to STEM experiences by aligning ‘challenges’ to literary works, hence the play on the word LIT,” Luttrell said. “Throughout the year, our elementary students are given a modern literary children’s book accompanied by a STEM challenge. These challenges may focus on science, technology, engineering or math. In addition, we also seek to infuse fine arts into as many challenges as we can to create a well-rounded experience for our students.”

The benefits of STEM go beyond science, technology, engineering and math. STEM programs also provide students with opportunities and experiences that increase innovation, encourage curiosity, inspire creativity, build confidence and perseverance, and foster community and collaboration.

“These ‘side effects’ of STEM programs help secure our future by preparing students to not only work but also live in a more advanced society than their predecessors,” Luttrell said.

PCSSD is seeing success related to STEM with the implementation of these programs.

“Last school year, PCSSD increased math proficiency scores at four times the state average,” Luttrell said. “This is a huge statistical feat for any district, particularly one as large as PCSSD! The numbers were even higher for several of our elementary schools. Individually, we have seen grade level proficiency grow at various schools by as much as 30 percentage points. We hope to see similar results for the 22-23 school year. Furthermore, as we move into a new state assessment system and new math standards for the 23-24 school year, we seek continued growth and achievement in both math and science.”

All elementary students in PCSSD participate in the STEM is LIT! Program. On the secondary level, we provide not only remediation opportunities for students who struggle in STEM, but also acceleration opportunities. Our goal is to include as many students in as many STEM experiences as possible.