By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
It’s no secret that I believe in the Oklahoma School of Science and Math (OSSM). What might be unknown to many Oklahomans is the variety of ways that high school students can participate in OSSM.
Since 1992, the OSSM residential school has been providing a comprehensive and immersive boarding school experience that challenges students far beyond the traditional high school model. But what about our high school students who show promise in math and science but do not want a two-year boarding school experience? What about the students who want a greater challenge than their high school can offer and yet want to maintain their high school affiliation?
There is an option for these students, too. The OSSM regional center program is a partnership between OSSM and Oklahoma’s CareerTech centers, with OSSM providing the teachers and textbooks, and the tech centers provide classrooms and busses. Regional center students attend their local high school for half the school day and the OSSM regional center the other half.
The six OSSM regional centers and one virtual regional center provide students with college-level math and science classes not typically available in Oklahoma’s rural high schools, including general physics, AP calculus (equivalent to two semesters of college calculus), and AP physics C: mechanics, a calculus-based physics class.
“The beauty of the regional center design is that students get access to OSSM math and science while maintaining their high school affiliation and continuing their extracurricular activities,” said Tony Cornforth who, for the last 10 years, has been the calculus and physics teacher at the OSSM regional center housed on the campus of Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne.
A student from Purcell, for example, who is active in FFA, band or basketball can take English and history at Purcell half the day, then calculus and physics at the regional center the other half of the day.
“These are normal high school kids,” Cornforth said, “who just want a greater academic challenge, who want to improve their ACT score, and who want to earn college credit through the AP testing program.”
Every spring Cornforth visits each of the 18 high schools in Mid-America Technology Center’s region to share the OSSM opportunity with students who have completed Algebra 2. Interested students submit an application that is evaluated based on high school transcript, ACT score and a diagnostic algebra test.
“Everyone wins,” Cornforth said. “The local high schools, the tech centers and, most importantly, the students who receive rigorous training for careers in the innovation economy.”
We need to sit up and take notice of this opportunity for Oklahoma students. They — and we — need more, not less, talent in science and math. OSSM Regional Centers are a great way to get it.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].