Contributing Author

Project Lead the Way Drives Progress for Educational Advancement

The Project Lead the Way K-12 pathways program integrates STEM disciplines and teaches critical thinking to students through activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum. The national program was recently chosen by the Leadership Council as the CLASSY Award Winner for Educational Advancement.

To determine the winners, the Leadership Council applied their own expertise to judging criteria developed by the CLASSY Awards in partnership with the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, a recognized authority on analyzing social impact within and across causes to assess programs that are poised to drive social progress. The criteria looks at (1) Scale and Scope of the Problem or Issue Addressed, (2) Strength of Strategy Employed, (3) Impact To-Date, and (4) Organizational Effectiveness and Resource Management.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Project Lead The Way
Program Name

United States

Start date

Vince M. Bertram, Ed.D.


One of the key strategies to increase interest in STEM, particularly for minorities and women, is early introduction to the disciplines. The K-12 pathways program integrates STEM disciplines and teaches critical thinking to students through activity-, project-, and problem-based curriculum. Instead of teaching math and science in isolation, PLTW gives students a chance to apply what they know, identify problems, find unique solutions, and lead their own learning.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs will grow at twice the rate of other fields by 2018. Studies show the U.S. will need 1 million more STEM-prepared graduates over the next decade than it is currently producing. To meet the U.S. workforce needs, we must increase the number of students receiving undergraduate STEM degrees by 34% annually over current rates.

“If you look into the future and the types of STEM related roles that are needed relative to the people that are globally competitive to take on those roles, we as a nation are lagging. We are not giving our students access to the type of knowledge that will prepare them to be able to be competitive in their own right,” said Susan Asinyabi, Executive Vice President of Teacher Preparation, Support and Development at Teach for America, and Leadership Council member on the Educational Advancement board.

[su_quote cite=”Susan Asinyabi, Teach for America” class=”top5″]PLTW’s STEM program is promising. It creates a space for students to become leaders who can build a life for themselves. [/su_quote]

The K-12 Pathways program executes its strategy by developing curriculum and teacher training, providing support to schools that implement their curriculum, building infrastructure to support online delivery of curriculum and teacher training, and establishing relationships with universities.

“Most STEM subjects are taught in isolation. PLTW’s approach is unique, and they’ve challenged themselves to teach students how to use STEM in a way that relates to their every day lives,” added Asinyabi. “This approach makes a STEM curriculum accessible to students, and it feels like they can use it every day. When you take something that is known to be complex and make it accessible to what people see and feel, it takes the nostalgia out of the air.”

Experiencing annual average growth of 25%, PLTW is set to serve more than 600,000 students in over 6,000 schools in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia in the 2014-15 school year. Hundreds of post-secondary, nonprofit, and corporate organizations support PLTW’s work and actively recruit students who take PLTW while in high school.

“PLTW’s understanding of the need for STEM in America is significant for the economy,” said Asinyabi. “We need to build a foundation for citizens who can support their own lives, their families, and then become contributing members to a workforce that is constantly adjusting and changing. This is the only way to help break the cycle of poverty.”

More than 30 independent studies show that taking PLTW courses has a strong, positive impact on students’ mathematics and science achievement, and that students who take PLTW courses are more likely to select a STEM major in college and persist in their STEM major from the first to second year of college.

“Project Lead The Way is extremely grateful to the CLASSY Awards and United Nations Foundation for this tremendous honor. There is outstanding work happening in classrooms throughout the United States by students and teachers engaged in Project Lead The Way, and it is our goal to give every student in America access to PLTW’s high-quality programs,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Project Lead The Way.

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Project Lead the Way accepts the CLASSY Award for Educational Advancement on stage at the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards in San Diego, CA
Project Lead the Way accepts the CLASSY Award for Educational Advancement on stage at the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards in San Diego, CA

About Project Lead the Way

Project Lead The Way’s mission is to prepare students for the global economy. Committed to giving every student in the United States access to PLTW programs, the organization is continuously increasing program quality and reducing costs. Recognized by Change the Equation as one of only four high-quality, nationally scalable in-school programs, and named a top-performing nonprofit organization by the Social Impact Exchange, PLTW is a program making a difference.

About the CLASSYs

Since it’s inception five years ago, the CLASSYs have recognized the efforts of thousands of exceptional organizations and individuals, providing public insight into our world’s greatest achievements. With the insight and participation of experts and institutions, the CLASSY Awards has established a new way of measuring social impact across causes at a global scale. This methodology provides insight into the program strategies, outputs, outcomes and growth of these bold solutions relative to the problem being addressed.

The yearlong initiative to discover the most innovative and effective models identifies and evaluates organizations in eight major cause categories, including Active Duty & Veteran Services, Animal & Wildlife Welfare, Educational Advancement, Environmental Protection, Health Services, Human Rights & Social Justice, Poverty & Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief & Public Safety.

CLASSY Awards Nominees are selected through an intensive evaluation process created and developed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy. For the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards, organizations were evaluated through a five-step process that began with 3600 organizations. After a pre-application form was submitted, applicants completed a 20-minute phone interview. From there, those that passed were asked to complete a Nomination Profile in order to be eligible for a CLASSY Award. The Top 5 Nominees in each of the 25 cause categories were announced, narrowing the pool down from 3600 to 121. The 121 Nominees were then passed onto the Leadership Council, whose respective boards collectively determined the 25 Finalists and ultimately the 8 Winners.


Photo: Project Lead the Way program page.

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