NoVa hosts a thriving tech scene, so it’s no wonder its schools do, too.
The STEM certification was launched in 2015 to help determine which schools have strong focuses on science, technology and math topics. For Reston-based Ideaventions Academy, this was particularly important.
Since then the private school has grown to 35 students and is now open to 10th grade. “We started our upper school this year and we are growing with our students grade level by grade level,” said Heitz of how he plans to expand the grades slowly.
The plan is to cap total student size at around 100 to keep class sizes small. “In order to make this kind of hands-on, intensive work we find that works best,” Heitz told us during a phone call Wednesday night. We visited the Academy before, when their hands-on work involved VR field trips for a class of 6th and 7th graders.
Earning the STEM certification takes at least three months and involves internal reviews, as well as onsite reviews from AdvancED. The criteria is a list of 11 Standards that stipulate schools much have curriculums that focus on “real world applications,” among other things. So we asked Heitz why he went through it.
“Although it’s a very intense process in terms of evidence and gathering it and communicating it and the onsite visit, it aligns so well [with Ideaventions Academy] it wasn’t difficult in that sense,” Heitz explained.
The certification reviews did result in some tips for improvement, Heitz said, such as AdvancED suggesting the Adcademy can offer more interdisciplinary projects between classes.
For Heitz, the whole process was all about showing what his three-year-old school could do. “It’s a sign of quality that we’ve gone through that certification process by an outside body – that speaks volume to the quality of our programs,” he said, adding, “We didn’t know we were going to be the first school in VA, MD, and D.C. to receive it.”
AdvancED said while Ideaventions Academy was the first school in the DMV-area to earn it, more are expected to follow. “There are several other schools in Virginia that are currently in the process of seeking AdvancED STEM Certification that have not yet hosted on-site reviews,” said a spokesperson to us in an e-mail.
While there are no Maryland schools at that stage yet, AdvancED did work in the state to research STEM education standards when launching their certificate, according to a press release.-30-