Transition Grant

 Purpose of the T-STEM Transition Programming Grant

While STEM programs lead to greater success for students and increased graduation rates, many students enroll in STEM schools without a strong understanding of pathways or career choices. Middle-to-high-school transition programs that expose students to STEM-based learning and real-world STEM careers provide opportunities for students to make more intentional choices. At the same time, academic support during these transition programs prepares students for the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA), the gateway test for college courses, thereby accelerating student opportunities to engage in dual-credit courses. The T-STEM Transition Programming Grant provided opportunities for districts and campuses to develop, expand and enhance their transition programs to more effectively support students as they move from middle school to high school.

View the Artifacts

 Requirements

To qualify for the T-STEM Transition Programming Grant, applicants needed to show how they would use funding to more effectively bridge the transition from middle to high school. Bridge programs had to provide exposure to STEM careers beyond typical career days and develop increased support for the TSIA with a specific emphasis on algebra readiness. Finally, in addition to STEM learning, STEM career exposure and TSIA preparation, this grant also provided professional learning opportunities for counselors to help them better understand strategies for supporting students in college and career readiness.

 Results and Impact

Grant funding was used to increase the scale and scope of bridge programs, extending transition support to more students and enhancing existing activities beyond more traditional STEM programs like robotics. Additionally, funding provided transportation for field trips to businesses including the Craft Training Center and the Toyota factory, as well as to college campuses where students could see STEM in action on-site. Support for the TSIA included funding to pay for additional TSIA tutoring and additional TSIA preparation materials for students, as well as funding for math experts to facilitate professional learning to increase teachers’ understanding of math requirements on the TSIA. Schools and districts also used money to fund time for reviewing, analyzing and revising existing TSIA plans for improved outcomes. Finally, funding from this grant allowed counselors to engage in online courses and to attend state conferences to better prepare them to support students making career choices. Impacts at specific campuses include the following:

  • Sinton Independent School District (ISD) changed the culture of expectations for their students. With grant funds, Sinton ISD prepared a pilot group of middle school students for the TSIA—giving them the opportunity to take and pass the TSIA before entering high school. Twenty-three of the students in the pilot group reached college level in all three tested areas: math, reading and writing. Of these,13 elected to take a dual-credit class in the fall semester of their freshman year.
  • In addition to providing funding for test preparation, the grant also allowed Harmony School of Excellence in Austin to begin implementation of Project Lead the Way’s Biomedical Science class.
  • Harmony School of Innovation in Katy implemented Algebra Summer Bridge boot camps, which increased 8th-grade Algebra I enrollment by 30 percent.
  • With funding from the grant, Coronado increased attendance at Mustang Prep, their summer bridge program, by over 50 percent.

Total funding for the Transition Grant was $123,000 for seven campuses.
 

 Impact Story

Jennifer Jensen at STEM Academy in North East ISD used the Transition Grant to improve academic achievement and high school readiness through mixed-level advisory groups. Money from the grant funded a trip for three teachers to High Tech High in California, where they observed mixed-level advisory groups and began planning for implementation at home. These teachers returned to implement mixed-level advisory groups on the middle school campus and will be scaling to the high school campus in the fall. According to Jensen, mixed-level advisory groups have helped students feel connected to one another and desire to be together. In addition, they have allowed students to take ownership of advisory periods because 8th-grade students serve as leaders of the groups. The grant also funded planning and implementation time for teachers to conduct a summer training for rising 8th graders who wanted to be advisory leaders. As a part of the training, these students developed team-building activities for the summer bridge program.

Grant funding also provided opportunities to connect middle and high school students through student-led conferencing. Ten students from the high school visited the middle school to share their experiences in the STEM pathways available to students when they get to high school. Most importantly, Jensen said, the grant allowed the school to take their dreams and their vision and create long-lasting, sustainable systems that will impact their program for years to come.

 Implementation Tips

Through soliciting applications and implementing grants, Educate Texas has identified a number of tips most likely to make this type of grant successful. These include the following:

  • Begin with SMART goals so that all plans are actionable and measurable.
  • Keep the grant timeline short to help applicants maintain a tight focus on planning and implementation.
  • Provide grant opportunities that allow applicants to enhance rather than to supplant existing activities. This ensures that more students are able to engage at a deeper level with higher-level thinking skills, integration across contents and emphasis on 21st-century, real-world learning.
  • Connect and partner with parents to alleviate anxiety and to ensure an understanding of student success beyond high school.

Artifacts

Parent Survey

Survey and reflection questions for parents whose child attends summer program

Summer Bridge Surveys allow districts to receive feedback from all participants—parents, students and staff. This feedback is reviewed yearly and used to revise, refine and enhance the Summer Bridge experience for parents, students and staff.

Middle School Survey

Survey and reflection questions for middle schoolers about transitioning, academic habits and interests

Northeast ISD uses student surveys to assess needs of the STEM program, including Summer Bridge.  This input assists the evaluation of the program and plan for future school years. Many of the survey questions address transition from middle to high school, and Summer Bridge is a large component of transition.