Warsaw Community Schools was one of three school systems recognized nationwide for being innovative while pushing high school students to hands-on STEM-based learning and earning dual credits.
The Excellence and Innovation in Secondary Schools award from the Alliance for Excellent Education was announced Wednesday in Washington, D.C. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Warsaw Community Schools shared the spotlight with Cleveland’s MC2 STEM High School and Santa Ana Unified School District in California. More than five dozen schools and districts were considered.
WCS Superintendent David Hoffert said the Alliance is a partner of the U.S. Department of Education. His district applied for the award, which does not come with a prize, he added.
"It’s a federal department distinction and award," Hoffert said. "We’re just so proud our high school and career (center) were able to accomplish this."
The Alliance focused on schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged and traditionally underserved communities.
"WCS’s exemplary career and technical education and dual-enrollment programs emerged as a national leader and a great role model for districts nationwide," said Bob Wise, Alliance president and former governor of West Virginia.
WCS is considered a rural school district with a 20 percent English-learner population and a 50 percent free and reduced-price lunch rate, Hoffert said.
Warsaw Community High School, with 2,200 students, has the fifth-largest dual-credit program in Indiana, allowing students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit for a single class.
Over the past five years, Warsaw added 75 new classes to the career center and high school curricula, the Alliance stated.
More than 75 percent of Warsaw’s high school teachers have taught a dual-enrollment course. Warsaw’s secondary school students earned Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment credits to save $1 million in college costs, Hoffert said.
"The local needs of the community, including the orthopedic, medical and agricultural industries, have propelled Warsaw to create innovative visions for inspiring dreams and enriching the community through technology and a focus on STEM education," the Alliance stated, providing for a more "hands on" approach to learning.