Oak Ridge is known for its academic achievements and the quality of its educational system. It has always been a discriminator in where families choose to live. Oak Ridge Schools (ORS) offers a holistic, STEM-based experience to our students to ensure preparation for their future lives and careers. We provide adaptive and challenging environments that cultivate a sustained passion for continuous learning. Our vision is that every Oak Ridge student will receive the highest-quality education and graduate prepared for college, career, and life success. Our guiding principles include student focus, accountability, equity, excellence, engagement, integrity, and teamwork. Industry leaders often reflect that employees who exhibit these character traits as well as an intrinsic desire to learn make the best candidates for future careers.
The Oak Ridge School district works collaboratively with our community stakeholders to continuously improve. We have a collective commitment to seven keys to college and career readiness, beginning as soon as our students enter our hallways. The first 3 keys focus on math and reading proficiency. Key 4 centers on meeting ACT benchmarks on the 8th grade Aspire test. Keys 5-7 focus on college and career readiness, emphasizing financial literacy, ACT scores, and our ultimate Key 7, which ensures that every student graduates with some form of early postsecondary credential such as dual enrollment credit, Advanced Placement (AP) coursework, industry certification, and/or military preparedness.
Within these academic skills, we are committed to STEM-based learning. Our district has rebranded our STEM acronym to stand for Students and Teachers Energizing Minds. We created this moniker because the all-inclusive learning that occurs in STEM-based classrooms involves not just Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math subject matter, but also the essential elements of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. These are commonly called “The 4 Cs” and are widely recognized as workplace skills that increase productivity. By focusing on the 4Cs, teachers have taken ownership of our STEM-based model for engaging with students and energizing their minds, coming up with problems and solutions that were unforeseen. This ownership of STEM-based learning was recently validated by AdvancED, an accreditation body who recognized Oak Ridge Schools as the first district in Tennessee and second in the world to achieve AdvancED STEM certification in every school in the district. This holistic approach for interdisciplinary learning has opened up broad possibilities of combinations of subject matter such as science with art, music with social studies, economics with marketing, English and other world languages with broadcasting, health sciences with advanced manufacturing, and digital arts with welding, as examples.
With STEM-based learning, students also begin to make connections about the relevance of academic coursework to future careers. We offer a wide variety of AP courses, which allow for robust learning and college credit. Additionally, we offer dual enrollment and dual credit with colleges in several courses in art, world languages, science, math, English, advanced manufacturing, arts and audiovisual communications, business, education, health science, information technology, and transportation. Robust career and technical education coursework in the aforementioned fields also provides students with a variety of options for earning recognized industry certifications as well as work-based learning opportunities in their chosen career fields. Participation in Naval JROTC allows students to cultivate life and career skills while exploring options for future military service and an expansive list of employment opportunities.
We are proud to announce that in 2018, 90.32% of our graduating class attained at least one early postsecondary credential. This is up from 72.7% in 2015. A closer look at this data revealed that not only did a higher percentage of students complete at least one credential, but a higher percentage of students completed multiple early postsecondary credentials. While maintaining and strengthening our robust established AP programs, new initiatives in dual enrollment, industry certification, and JROTC have augmented student successes in the number and types of postsecondary credentials our students received.
Focusing on this holistic model for STEM-based learning and preparation for future careers aligns with our vision that every Oak Ridge student will graduate prepared for college, career, and life success.