Fort Gordon-area schools are on the front lines of an effort to raise student proficiency in cyber and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills necessary for career success, as the workforce in our region rapidly transforms to support our nation’s cybersecurity requirements.
Our schools must also ensure that military families and civilian families working for the military actively seek out assignments here because of the rigorous and high quality coursework and challenging curriculum offered to their children. Accordingly, the Columbia County School District has partnered with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to implement the College Readiness Program, a three-year effort that has dramatically increased, by 272 percent, the number of students at Grovetown High School taking and earning qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) math and science exams.
What’s more, this program has a proven track record of improving results for traditionally underserved and female students. But just as important is what this program means for military and civilian families who cycle through Fort Gordon, home of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and future home of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command.
First, the NMSI grant, funded in large part by the Department of Defense, ensures area students who enroll in specified AP classes not only are exposed to rigorous, college-level coursework, but are better-equipped to take part in the growing cyber economy in the Augusta area.
Because of Fort Gordon’s increasing importance in developing cyber capabilities for the military, the Augusta region is on the ascent and will soon join an elite fraternity of tech-savvy locales. PC Magazine dubbed the area “the newest cousin to Silicon Valley,” as thousands of defense jobs flock to the region to help make good on the Army’s cyber vision in defense of the nation. Second, the dramatic uptick in STEM-related classes and the high student achievement in those classes should help allay any concern of service members and civilians alike eyeing an assignment here; Fort Gordon regional schools will prepare their children for careers and college, and they will give them the foundation and confidence to continue on for further STEM education.
When the Army opens its new Army Cyber Command Headquarters in 2020, Fort Gordon will become the center for Army cyber development, quite literally at the vanguard of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is only fitting that high schools surrounding the base are equipped with top-notch AP classes and intellectually curious students that, together, can add to the command’s success into the future.
Sandra Carraway is superintendent of the Columbia County School System. Col. Todd Turner is the garrison commander at Fort Gordon.