The National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools was established in 1988, “before STEM was STEM,” its leader says. Since that time, the group has been providing a forum for STEM high schools to share best practices and other information. We contacted Todd Mann, the organization’s executive director, for more insight on his group and its upcoming professional conference:
Q: Tell us about the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools (NCSSS) and how you serve your members.
A: NCSSS is 30 years old. It was started by schools that were “doing STEM” before STEM was STEM. Schools such as the Bronx High School of Science, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
The same reason for starting the consortium then holds true today: How can schools support one another as they each develop and grow curricula and school environments that further authentic STEM education?
The organization is dedicated to staying on top of trends and ensuring that our membership is aware of them through our annual professional conference, our quarterly magazine and our monthly “Consortium Connects” webinars — online roundtables led by teachers.
Q: How and why should schools join your organization?
A: Schools apply for membership, and they join the organization primarily to strive to be best in class, something they can do by networking with their peers from across the country.
Q: What impact has your organization had? What areas are you targeting for the future?
A: Because we are a national organization, our impact is focused at the federal level. Three years ago, congressional staff approached our board and asked us for a definition of a STEM school, which was then embedded in the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.
Our outreach is not limited to Congress and federal agencies. We partner with many organizations representing all aspects relevant to STEM high schools. We are also piloting a forward-thinking global initiative that involves 10 countries.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming professional conference, set for Nov. 7-10 in Houston, Texas — what is the theme, and why should educators attend?
A: Our conference is attended typically by about 200 principals and teachers. Everyone likes it this small because it creates incredible opportunities to foster relationships that are challenging to develop at larger events.
Each conference is “themed” around its geographic location. As you might imagine, we are taking advantage of NASA’s proximity to do a lot that revolves around this engineering.
Q: What sessions can you highlight from the conference agenda?
A: We have 12 strands for our sessions. Computer Science is always of interest, but a strand drawing increasing attention is Wellness. We like to mix it up with roundtables.
I am very excited about our keynoter, Dr. Richard Tapia, renowned for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences.
Q: How would educators find out more about your organization and your upcoming conference?
A: I would encourage educators to visit our website, ncsss.org, and go to the Events tab.