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Creating a High Performing STEM School Culture

Mark Heffron and Kate Dresher, Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST)

The Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics report highlights the importance of providing increased access to underrepresented students in STEM fields and high-performing college going school culture as critical to preparing college STEM students. This session highlights the successes of the DSST Public School (Denver School of Science and Technology) model for 6-12 STEM education. The session focuses on what has made DSST Public Schools successful at creating “access for all” middle and high school level STEM education where 100% of the first five graduating classes have been accepted into four-year colleges and universities; the programmatic choices that have been made to achieve this success; and what else is necessary to build a successful STEM culture.

About the Presenters:
Mark Heffron, High School Director/Principal, Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST)’s Stapleton High School
Mark Heffron is currently high school director/principal of DSST’s Stapleton High School and teaches a section of BC – Calculus. Heffron was a professional engineer designing bridges and water containment structures for seven years prior to entering education. He taught all levels of mathematics for six years. Heffron was math department chair at DSST’s founding Stapleton campus between 2006 and 2008. He left the classroom and was dean and then director at DSST in 2009. Heffron spearheaded DSST’s data analysis and tracking platform and has led DSST’s Stapleton to some of the highest CSAP/TCAP (Colorado State Assessment program) and ACT test results in the State of Colorado. DSST has had 100 percent of their first five graduating classes gained acceptance to four-year colleges or universities (2008 to 2012). Heffron was the recipient of the first Sie Faculty Excellence Award. He earned a BS in Civil Engineering from Michigan Technological Engineering and an MS in Civil Engineering from Purdue University.

Kate Dresher, Director of Internships and Athletics, Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST)’s Stapleton High School
Kate Dresher designed and has implemented the Internship Program for the past six years at Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST). She places 90–100 juniors (required credit for graduation) each year in 10-week, STEM-based, internship programs with local hospitals, engineering and architecture firms, museums, zoos, and area businesses and organizations. Dresher has presented on internship programs at NSTA and NSRC International Coalition meetings. Dresher earned a BS in Education at Slippery Rock University and an MEd from the University of Pittsburgh.