Central Bucks’ three high schools are the best in Bucks County and among the tops in Pennsylvania for STEM education, according to a study released this week by Niche.com.
Central Bucks East was ranked ninth by Niche while CB South finished 17th and CB West 18th among all state high schools. Rounding out the top 20 are Wissahickon, 19th, and North Penn, 20th, in Montgomery County.
“We have 14 different technology and engineering courses at our high schools that our kids are taking advantage of and are performing well,” said John Kopicki, Central Bucks’ superintendent. “They go to college and major in science and technology and engineering, courses they’ve been exposed to in Central Bucks, and pursue careers. This survey is another indicator our kids are continuing that successful trend.”
Niche, a Pittsburgh-based website that analyzes education data to rank schools, used math SAT and ACT scores, math state test scores and enrollment in advanced math and science courses, in addition to data from the U.S. Department of Education as well as student and parent reviews in their methodology.
There are 618 public high schools included in the Niche study. High schools in Bucks and Eastern Montgomery counties finishing among the top 100 in the rankings are New Hope-Solebury, ranked 32nd; Council Rock North, 33rd; Upper Dublin, 38th; Council Rock South, 43rd; Pennsbury, 54th; Palisades, 58th; Lower Moreland, 61st; Souderton Area, 64th; Pennridge, 70th; Cheltenham, 74th; Hatboro-Horsham, 82nd; Abington, 85th; and Quakertown Community, 97th.
The Downingtown STEM Academy, in Chester County, is ranked number one in Pennsylvania.
These schools have a strong focus on STEM and provide a solid foundation, preparing their students to focus their college majors on STEM fields to meet the increased demands of rapidly evolving technology careers, said Alan Malachowski of the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools.
With the high ranking of so many Bucks and Montgomery County schools, Malachowski, a teacher in North Penn, said area students are afforded a “unique opportunity.”
“We have communities, school boards and school districts that encourage the development of rigorous curriculum, especially in STEM,” he said. “We have really strong teaching, too. Those things come together to provide opportunities for kids that they’re really not going to get anywhere else.”
Malachowski cited North Penn’s Engineering Academy and similar school and community partnerships in other area districts that set the region’s schools apart.
Ed Tate, Council Rock’s school board president, said the combination of teachers, parents and students working together has led to the STEM success in its two high schools.
“We hire great teachers and they work hard because it’s a great atmosphere for them to teach in,” he said. “We also need to credit our taxpayers for their support. We’re very fortunate in that respect. Our parents send their kids to school well-prepared and our students work hard.”
Matt Oberecker, a QUEST teacher at Cold Spring Elementary School in Central Bucks, said the district teaches 21st century skills to help prepare students for jobs that have yet to be created.
QUEST, which stands for “Questioning and Understanding through Engineering, Science, and Technology,” incorporates the four Cs — collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking — into elementary school classes.
“We’re all about resiliency and trying things from different angles … practicing 21st century skills,” he said. “My job as a teacher is to provide pathways for them to practice that.”
As part of a new middle school schedule, Central Bucks is adding two new courses: innovation and creativity, and integrated technology. These courses are being written this summer with input from newly hired teachers.
It will help prepare middle schoolers to make even greater STEM strides in high school, Oberecker said.
“It used to be that you’d look at a school yearbook and a student would write ‘I want to be a football player’ or ‘I want to be a baseball player,’ ” Oberecker said. “Now it’s ‘video game designer’ or ‘civil engineer.’ I know we’re definitely teaching them.
“I’m proud to be part of a program like that.”