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December 8, 2016

It’s official. Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA) STEM Institute has been awarded Georgia STEM Certification, making them the 41st STEM-certified school in the state.

“I am absolutely thrilled about this fantastic accomplishment,” said Newton County School System (NCSS) Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “It has been hard work for our STEM teachers, students, families, business partners, and leaders. We now have the only ‘STEM certified’ College and Career Academy program in Georgia, and Newton College and Career Academy's STEM Institute is just the 10th high school program to receive this very prestigious designation. In May, we will also have our very first graduates of the STEM Institute. Congratulations to our fantastic team and to everyone who worked to ensure we achieved this goal.”

The announcement came after a visit from a certification panel comprised of Georgia Department of Education staff as well as administrators from Fulton and Pike Counties. 

According to Dr. Tim Schmitt, NCSS Director of Career Technical and Agricultural Education, the visiting team reviewed a pre-submitted written application; participated in presentations and discussions from school staff, parents, and business partners; and also visited classrooms to hear from the STEM students themselves. 

“At the conclusion of the visit, the team reported that they were very impressed with the program and it was indeed the 41st STEM certified school in Georgia, said Schmitt. “During their debrief, the team cited the school’s Flex Day model as an innovative practice that provides students a chance to collaborate and build project management skills.”

Developed during the 2015-2016 school year, Schmitt said the Flex Day model has evolved into a “cornerstone component” of NCCA’s STEM program. 

“On ‘Flex Day,’ which happens one day a week, students are able to electronically schedule themselves to different work spaces around the school to work on collaborative projects,” Schmitt explained. “They also coordinate who they will meet with and how long they will need to be together to work on their various projects.  A typical flex day may have students working in one space for a biotechnology research project, another space for an engineering design project, and still another space where students are prepping for a meeting with a business partner.”

According to Schmitt, the visiting team also noted how impressive and dedicated the STEM students are. 

“It was clear to them that the school has built a true ‘STEM Culture’ within the program and that the students and teachers have fully bought into the idea of STEM Education,” said Schmitt.

“Becoming STEM certified really validates all of the hard work that we have put into the program for the past three years,” said Chad Walker, principal of Newton College & Career Academy. “Additionally, it gives us a seal of approval for our programs of study—Biotechnology and Drafting & Design—proving our associates are immersed in an accelerated curriculum which focuses on project-based and problem-based learning as the primary methodology of teaching.  We have now become a premiere STEM program and a model for others to follow.”