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HSSP Pilot Site: Altar Valley Elementary School District
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Our Story Begins...

The Altar Valley School District is a small high needs K-8 school district located about twenty miles west of Tucson in an economically depressed area of Pima County. Their program focuses on developing STEM activities that will be integrated into their enrichment classes for all students in the district at all grade levels. In addition they intend to provide all of their teachers with extensive STEM based professional development to help expand the integration of STEM into all classes.


""Last school year (2014-15), we started off small, piloting four Paxton Patterson units with one group of 23 randomly-selected 8th grade students. The pilot proved to be hugely successful, not only because the students loved the class, but also because we saw significant differences in the achievement data of the 23 students who participated in the pilot as compared with the rest of their 8th grade peers."
- Julie Waters, Director of Federal Programs and Professional Development




In the End...

Where We Were:
Three years ago, we did not offer any classes that were entirely STEM-focused or college- and career-related. After being awarded the Helios Grant, we decided to use the funding to purchase and implement the Paxton Patterson STEM Learning Systems curriculum at one of our school sites, Altar Valley Middle School. We selected Paxton Patterson because our students, like all students, are extremely interested in technology, and the computer-based portions of the Paxton Patterson Integrated Instructional Units (IIU’s) allow our students to explore that interest. However, the Paxton Patterson units are not solely technology-based; different modalities of learning are addressed, including reading, writing, and hands-on projects. Our Helios Grant Design Team liked the variety of learning experiences offered by Paxton Patterson.

Last school year (2014-15), we started off small, piloting four Paxton Patterson units with one group of 23 randomly-selected 8th grade students. The pilot proved to be hugely successful, not only because the students loved the class, but also because we saw significant differences in the achievement data of the 23 students who participated in the pilot as compared with the rest of their 8th grade peers. (See table below.)


  % Of All 8th Grade Students At Mastery – Fall % Of Paxton Patterson Students At Mastery – Fall % Of All 8th Grade Students At Mastery – Spring % Of Paxton Patterson Students At Mastery – Spring
Reading CBM 21 43 58 100
Math CBM 10 26 29 43
Reading District Benchmark 45 54 43 78
Math District Benchmark 25 38 24 43
Science District Benchmark 15 43 49 70
AIMS Science     33 100

The Results Of Our Pilot Program:
We attribute the higher assessment scores (specifically, the reading scores) of the Paxton Patterson Lab students to a variety of factors. First, students are required to interact with complex text throughout each unit. Not only do students conduct research and build their background knowledge through reading, but they are asked to think critically about what they read and apply their learning during the project-based portion of their chosen unit. Also, students complete two AZCCRS-aligned writing assignments over the course of each unit, one narrative and one argumentative. In their writing, students must cite textual evidence to support their ideas and claims. Finally, the integration of reading and writing with STEM assignments and activities allows students to participate in a truly integrated, cross-curricular learning experience, rather than viewing each discipline as a separate, isolated entity.


Where We Are Now:
We currently offer 14 Paxton Patterson units as a special area class to all of our 6th – 8th graders. The units available to students include Alternative Energy, Computer Graphics and Animation, Flight Technology, Forensic Science, Information Technology, Laser Technology, Robotics, and Veterinary Medicine. Additionally, we offer Paxton Patterson’s STEM Train Curriculum, which is designed specifically for 3rd – 5th grade, to all of our 5th grade students.


Where We Hope To Be As We Move Forward:
So far this school year, we have already added two new units: Computer-Aided Drafting and Medical Imaging. We hope to add more units next year, including Digital Manufacturing, which involves the use of a 3D printer! Our long-term goal is to grow and sustain our Paxton Patterson program and continue to build on our successes.









Visit more Sites... To learn more about the HSSP sites, click on the images below.

  • Altar Valley ESD

  • Alhambra ESD

  • Bagdad USD

  • Congress ESD

  • Salt River Elementary School

  • W.F. Killip Elementary School

  • Yuma ESD

  • The HELIOS STEM Schools Journey

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