Liberty County High School has been awarded a grant worth over $500,000 to fund the National Math and Science Initiative’s Advanced Placement Program for Military Families.
The grant is being funded by the Department of Defense Education Activity. LCHS qualified for the grant due to its large population of military dependents. According to Mary Ryan, curriculum coordinator at LCHS, more than 30 percent of Liberty County High School students are active-duty dependents — a figure that does not account for dependents of retirees or civilian workers employed on Fort Stewart.
Ryan explained that the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) will manage the grant, which it also helped secure. The funds will help supply equipment, such as calculators and books, as well as provide incentives for AP students, such as door prizes and lunches for Saturday sessions and funding for half of students’ AP exam fees. The money also will provide incentives for AP teachers who meet their goals, as well as compensation for the extra time that these teachers put in with their students.
“Part of the application process is the potential for the AP program to grow,” Ryan said. “LCHS added AP statistics last year, and in the upcoming school year, we will bring back AP calculus as well as add AP language for 11th grade.”
Ryan said that thanks to the grant, 10 LCHS teachers will travel to Warner Robins in July to attend training for a pre-AP program called “Laying the Foundation.” These teachers will then come back and share what they learned with the rest of the faculty.
“The main part of it is professional development for our teachers — showing the models and strategies to increase the amount of time students are spending preparing, and providing incentives to encourage students to do that,” Ryan said.
A special celebration was held at LCHS on Thursday morning to announce the grant. An NMSI representative was in attendance, as was Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory. Gregory spoke about the importance of quality education, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Gregory said that although “our soldiers today serve in the most technologically advanced military in the world,” a lot of the technology being employed by the military does not originate in the U.S.
“Engineers throughout the world … share that technology with us,” Gregory explained. “It shows and stresses the importance of the United States, our own country, having a solid base in math and science.”
NMSI Program Director Debbee Reynolds-Johnsen also spoke about the importance of science and math programs in the U.S. According to Reynolds-Johnsen, 74 percent of all U.S. jobs will require STEM degrees by the year 2020. She also said that STEM careers will earn 26 percent more than non-STEM careers, and that 60 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulty finding STEM employees.
“In 2013, we worked with 52 military schools, and within that first year we had a 67 percent increase in qualifying scores — and that is nine times the national average of qualifying AP scores,” Reynolds-Johnsen said.
The NMSI-sponsored AP program is open to all qualifying LCHS students, regardless of military affiliation. The grant is good for three years, after which time the AP program will continue with the models and lessons learned through the NMSI training.