Several community leaders discussed Fort Bend ISD’s acceptance into the Incubator Path of the Microsoft Showcase School Program, a partnership that will culminate in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics magnet school in the district, during a webinar hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 11.
Representatives from FBISD, Microsoft, the University of Houston at Sugar Land and the Fort Bend Economic Development Council said the mutually beneficial partnership will help prepare students for higher education and careers in STEM.
“The showcase program is really about linking education to work, and defining clearer connections between places to learn and places to work,” said Jeff Wiley, the president and CEO of the Fort Bend Economic Development Council.
FBISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said the Microsoft Showcase School—which could open in the next two to three years—is envisioned to be a centrally located kindergarten through eighth-grade STEM magnet school, open to any student in the district. Later, he said the district hopes to add a STEM-focused early college high school where students would complete a two-year associate degree while earning their high school diploma.
Dupre said Microsoft’s vision for its Showcase Schools are in alignment with the district’s profile of a graduate and teaching and learning practices.
“We want our students to own their learning by asking questions; we want them to be critical thinkers and be able to work together to find answers that are going to solve the world's problems,” Dupre said. “... [In FBISD] we're about learning and growing and thriving and a growth mindset. So that builds a foundation for a successful innovative program like a Microsoft Showcase School.”
Furthermore, the University of Houston at Sugar Land’s colleges of technology and education would also be involved in the FBISD Showcase School. The magnet school will create a pipeline for students into the college of technology, and through the college of education, UH will be able to provide FBISD teachers with ongoing professional development, said Jay Neal, the associate vice president of academic affairs at UH at Sugar Land.
There are approximately 328 schools across the globe involved with the Microsoft Showcase School Program, said Robyn Hrivnatz, director of education industry executive at Microsoft. The FBISD STEM magnet school will be the fourth Microsoft School of Innovation to be built from the ground up in the United States.
“Often one of the things that [schools of innovation] do is they serve as lighthouses of examples of excellence for other countries and nations around the world,” Hrivnatz said.