A major key to Broken Arrow's economic vitality and quality-of-life appeal is its innovative school systems and the ability of the region's higher education community to keep a steady pipeline of talent flowing to industries.
The Broken Arrow school system serves most local families with a strong commitment to incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into the curriculum as early as kindergarten and offering students multiple pathways to college and careers. The school district also has implemented a 1:1 device policy for high school students, using Canvas as its learning management system and Google Apps for content creation.
“Students have technology at their fingertips, allowing them to explore and engage in unlimited opportunities for learning,” says Dr. Margaret Coates, assistant superintendent of Secondary Education for Broken Arrow Public Schools. “We have created a K-12 pathway where students collaborate and use critical thinking skills and technology to engage in STEM projects. We also offer our students many opportunities to experience career and technology education through programs such as Project Lead the Way, a K-12 project and problem-based contextual learning curriculum that prepares students for success in engineering and technology programs.”
Broken Arrow Schools partners with the Broken Arrow campus of the Tulsa Technology Center to allow students to earn college and high school credit simultaneously. Tulsa Tech offers certificate and two-year degree programs in more than a dozen areas, including digital arts and communication, business, manufacturing, health sciences and information technology. The campus also works with businesses to develop customized, on-demand training modules to help industry meet workforce needs.
"We have a strong partnership with Tulsa Tech, and many of our students graduate with industry certifications, which allow them to go immediately into the workforce upon graduation from high school,” Coates says. “We are becoming pioneers of career and technical education, and we continue to take things to the next level. Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Tech work together to provide students with an opportunity to help them find a high-paying, rewarding and highly skilled career – not a job, but a career. It is vitally important that we continue to grow these programs and partnerships so that we can sustain a qualified workforce to enhance and grow the economy for Broken Arrow.”
On the Right Pathways
Union Public Schools, which straddles Tulsa and Broken Arrow, also serves some families in this area and is the 11th-largest school district in the state.
"We are a school district without a city. We're unique in that our high school is, in our mind, our Main Street," says Dr. Kathy Dodd, associate superintendent for Union Public Schools. "That’s why it’s important to us that we offer not only the academic preparation, but also the extracurricular preparation. We have a big focus on fine arts. We have a focus on speech and debate and athletics. We're training that well-rounded student that we hope maximizes his or her full potential to be successful in life after high school."
The Union Public Schools district also places an emphasis on college and career readiness, incorporating STEM-based learning into a curriculum that also includes Advanced Placement courses, pathways in biomedical, computer science and engineering, and dual enrollment courses through Tulsa Community College.
“We provide 27 hours of concurrent enrollment through a partnership with Tulsa Community College. TCC provides instructors who come to our high school and teach college-level courses to our high school students during their regular academic day,” Dodd says. “We have plans to expand that in the near future as we work towards offering an Associate's Degree to students while they're still in high school.”
Tulsa Community College is the state’s largest community college, offering more than 200 certificate and degree programs. In addition to the dual enrollment programs it offers high school students, the college also partners with Northeastern State University, which operates a satellite campus in Broken Arrow, to enable students to seamlessly transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
“Our primary goal is to educate students and to help them reach their full potential,” Dodd says, “but we also pay attention to workforce demands and community needs because ideally, we want our students to go away to post-secondary, gain additional experience and expertise and then return to our community to fill the needs in our talent pipeline right here.”