Allison Cuttler, an advocate for STEM education and project-based learning, was nervous about starting an AP Computer Science course at North Star Academy College Preparatory School. After all, it was a brand new class for the school, and none of the students had experience coding. Nevertheless, Cuttler was committed to building a culture of computer science. She took the plunge – and it paid off.
In that first course, students achieved a 67% pass rate, tied with the national average. Results like that would be impressive anywhere, but they are particularly remarkable for a school serving under-resourced students. Cuttler’s students closed the achievement gap immediately with their performance on the AP Computer Science exam. In addition, they have averaged over 600 on the SAT math section, posting some of the highest results in the school’s history.
The trailblazing teacher founded an afterschool “Girls Who Code” club, which has become one of the school’s most popular organizations. The impact of the club and the new computer science curriculum have been invaluable at the high school. The percentage of graduates who have declared majors in STEM fields has more than quadrupled in the past two years, and most of these students credit Cuttler as their inspiration.
She effectively uses a combination of questioning techniques that develop rigorous, high-order thinking skills for her students. Her instruction in class was so effective that her students were able to lead an “Hour of Code” for 200 9th and 10th graders.
In student surveys, Cuttler not only received the highest scores in the math department, but also the highest scores in the entire school. She received an almost perfect score from students on the questions “How exciting is this teacher’s class?” and “How passionate is this teacher about the subject he/she teaches?” Her computer science course was the most highly-rated class in the school.
As an instructional leader at North Star Academy, Cuttler is responsible for providing weekly lesson plan feedback, conducting weekly observation feedback meetings, co-analyzing student data, helping teachers design remediation plans, and co-planning and implementing monthly professional development workshops for the math department. A video of Cuttler’s class was used in a recent professional development workshop to help train teachers on engagement techniques. She often visits middle schools to provide her valuable insight as a STEM educator.
When the school wanted to roll out a new form of teaching, Cuttler charged right in and piloted the new lesson type, modeling it during professional development in a way that convinced other team members that the new initiative was worth trying. It caught on rapidly as a result.
The charter high school will soon be offering engineering classes to students in all grade levels. Cuttler is expected to transition into overseeing the new department of engineering and computer science teachers.
Cuttler received a bachelor of science in mathematics with honors from Haverford College and a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California, San Diego.
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