Project Lead the Way (PLTW) offers elementary, middle- and high-school curricula that, when combined with college preparatory mathematics and science courses, is a terrific introduction to the scope, rigor and discipline that engineering and engineering technology programs require.
The fact that the program shows students how the information they're learning will be used later on is significant. Because of its hands-on approach to learning, the program touches a wide array of students, many of whom normally wouldn't have considered engineering or a technical field. PLTW students have performed better than their college-prep counterparts in National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments.
It is a good program from the engineering university's perspective, but the NAEP data showed the benefit to high schools as well. PLTW students outscored their peers in math, science and even reading, which says a lot about the comprehensive nature of the program.
The program's critical component is the comprehensive teacher-training model. Teachers come to the Seattle University campus for an intensive, two-week training program using PLTW-trained master teachers and professors, teacher idea exchanges and conferences for guidance counselors.
Nationally, more than 6,500 schools in 50 states and District of Columbia now participate in PLTW and it has improved the math, science and reading skills of participants as compared to students in traditional four-year, pre-college programs. Also, there is compelling data that students who take three or more PLTW courses are better prepared for the rigors of college engineering and engineering technology academics and persist through to graduation. Nationally, 50 percent of college freshmen entering engineering programs fail to earn an engineering degree; PLTW students persist in the range of 80 percent or more.