Drexel Neumann Academy
Chester, Pa.
Grant: $75,000; Funded 2016-17

Problem: The Despair of Limited Options

Drexel Neumann Academy serves low-income students of all faiths who live in the city of Chester, an area with one of the lowest-performing school districts in Pennsylvania. School leaders determined the addition of a rigorous curriculum of increasingly challenging study of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines would help break the cycle of poverty and violence for their students. They concluded that a demanding science program would equip their students with solid preparation for a quality high school education, workplace opportunities . . . and prospects for a better life.

Solution: Raise the Bar … Raise Expectations

With a $75,000 grant from the Archdiocesan Educational Fund, plus additional sources, Drexel Neumann Academy purchased the LabLearner science education system for PreK through eighth grade. The package consists of research-grade lab equipment, furniture, storage, curriculum integration, and teacher training. Each classroom teacher “team teaches” with a newly hired dedicated science instructor, who assists with all lab materials, experiments, and curriculum delivery. With this high-quality program in place, the faculty moved to raise the bar overall for the students. From the youngest in PreK to the graduating eighth graders, teachers challenged students in ways to challenge themselves and one another in team-based lab assignments. School leaders looked for increased test scores in STEM education while hoping for genuine enthusiasm for science across the school.

Results: Raised Results

Passion and excitement for science has been more than achieved, even in the program’s first year. Teachers report that science has clearly become a favorite subject for the majority of students. Even the youngest are eager to demonstrate their lab assignments. An unexpected additional benefit to the program — students not only conduct hands-on science experiments with truly research-grade equipment, but they also improve their public speaking skills by orally reporting on those experiments to their classmates and other teachers. Test results are impressive, as well. School leaders relied on the TerraNova scores and comparisons with final science grades from the prior year to measure improvement. All classes tested above the national science TerraNova average, while several grades showed significant year-over-year increases. Students can now access a broad array of valuable science tools and quality lessons for better learning. The adage looks to be true: if you raise the bar, you raise expectations, and you end up raising results. Classroom teachers suggest this first-year experiment with the new science curriculum bodes well for continued student enthusiasm for STEM studies and for steady increases in performance expectations and results.

“… None of us would have ever dreamed our students would be walking around in lab coats doing hands-on experiments every day. We believe this experience has opened their eyes to endless opportunities in the field of science. Coupled with their commitment to care for others, especially for the materially poor and marginalized, this science experience will surely bring forth future doctors, nurses, and research scientists from the graduates of Drexel Neumann Academy.”

Sr. Maggie Gannon, OSF
President, Drexel Neumann Academy