Recently, the Houston Independent School District’s Board of Education approved the creation of the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan. The new magnet middle school, located at the historic Ryan Middle School site, will focus on the health sciences.
Dr. Nancy Moreno, professor and senior associate director of BCM’s Center for Educational Outreach, tells us more about the new Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan in this Q&A:
What inspired the new middle school focused on the health sciences?
The idea originated with Houston Independent School District, which is seeking to expand and enhance science and health education for students throughout Houston. The new school extends the more than 40 years of collaboration between HISD and BCM, beginning with the joint establishment and operation of the DeBakey High School for Health Professions.
Our team in the Center for Educational Outreach is also working directly with Whidby Elementary School, providing professional development and science/health curricular content to all teachers and lab instructors at the school.
The Ryan Middle School magnet program is a logical next step in BCM’s collaboration with HISD, and it enhances the K-12 pathway for HISD students seeking to pursue higher education and careers in medicine, science and the health professions.
How will an emphasis on the health sciences benefit students at this age in particular?
Students of all ages benefit from strong science teaching and content. And we, as a nation, need students with solid science and math skills.
However, studies have shown that many students lose interest in the sciences during the middle school years. There are many reasons for this drop-off, but the results are devastating. Students miss out on many of the most exciting and lucrative career opportunities of the future, and the country loses potential resources needed to maintain competitiveness in the 21st-century economy.
The new magnet program at Ryan Middle School will ensure that Houston students in grades 6-8 have opportunities to explore science and health concepts, learn about related careers, maintain and grow their interest in these fields, and acquire the academic knowledge and social skills needed to succeed in high school and beyond.
In fact, we believe the magnet program at Ryan will provide experiences and education comparable to the best middle schools anywhere.
What kind of programs are in the works that will differentiate this school from other kinds of middle school curriculum?
BCM has been invited, and is pleased, to work directly with HISD in establishing the new Ryan curriculum. This will be an ongoing project, but we know that the curriculum will focus far more heavily on science, health and mathematics content than does a standard middle school curriculum. It also will offer direct experiences for students related to the mission of the Texas Medical Center.
BCM will provide science and health curricular materials that it already has developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health, and will conduct professional development to teachers at Ryan, to help ensure that they are comfortable and confident in teaching the most current science and health content.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the Ryan curriculum and curricula at traditional middle schools is that we expect it to increase, not decrease, students’ enthusiasm for and skills in science and health studies.
What will the selection process for students be like?
The selection process is established by HISD. Students from across the district will be invited to apply to the new program, which will assign students to the school based on a lottery system if needed.
How will the new school be allied and integrated with DeBakey High School?
It is our full expectation that the new magnet program will prepare students to apply to the DeBakey High School, and that students from Ryan will be very strong performers at DeBakey.
In addition, we envision collaboration between the two schools in the form of student mentoring, partnerships and joint professional development between teachers at the two schools, and even combined activities in the Texas Medical Center. It is important to mention again that our collaboration with Whidby Elementary School, also located in the Third Ward, is part of this health/science education pathway.
Is Ryan the first middle school focused on health sciences?
There are other health and/or science-focused magnet middle schools in HISD. However, the new program will be unique in its place within the family of BCM schools, and also as a key component of a K–12 health sciences magnet continuum.
It is important to note that the continuum actually extends beyond high school, with the Houston Premedical Academy at the University of Houston. This program, a partnership of HISD, UH and DeBakey High School, currently is open only to DeBakey graduates (up to 10 students per year are accepted).
Approximately how many students are expected to be part of the first class?
As with the application process, student enrollment will be determined by HISD.
However, based on early discussions, we anticipate an entering (6th-grade) class of up to 200 students, and the entire school (grades 6-8) enrollment to reach 600 students. One grade level will be added per year, beginning with grade 6 next fall.
What will the facilities be like for the students?
HISD has committed to providing the best experience possible. Students, teachers and staff can expect to find modern, fully-outfitted labs and classrooms that enable the finest instruction and promote exploration, motivation and learning.
Anything else that we should know about the new middle school?
Baylor College of Medicine is excited about its partnership with HISD in establishing and defining this new program.
Our strong support and belief in the Ryan Middle School magnet is demonstrated by Baylor’s willingness to include “Baylor College of Medicine” in the school’s name.
Find out more about the creation of the middle school in the news release.