Student enrollment in Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum tops 37,000


PLTW-courtesy West Central PLTW

August 18, 2016—As students across the metro return to school this month, a record number will explore the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through Project Lead the Way, which uses project-based learning to give students hands-on STEM experiences.

According to an analysis by KC STEM Alliance, more than 37,000 students from 30 districts were enrolled in Project Lead the Way courses in 2015-16, reflecting a 92 percent increase from the previous year across all grade levels.

Project Lead The Way® was introduced to the Kansas City region a decade ago with support from the Kauffman Foundation. In 2011, KC STEM Alliance was formed to support this and other initiatives to build a qualified STEM workforce for the region.

“Kansas City’s tremendous growth in Project Lead The Way is a result of the compelling, hands-on, project-based curriculum available now from kindergarten through high school,” said Martha McCabe, KC STEM Alliance Executive Director. “Teachers are invigorated and students are excited and engaged. And, we are seeing expansion in the urban core.”

A big chunk of the increase over the past year comes from a quadrupling of students in Project Lead the Way’s elementary-level curriculum, which was introduced in 2013-14. That program now reaches 15,000 and counting in the metro area.

At the middle school level, the number of students enrolled in the Gateway curriculum increased 50 percent. A 38 percent increase in high school enrollment was fueled in part by a doubling of students in the Computer Science pathway, which launched in 2013-14 and now is available at 46 metro schools.

“Students in computer science now can apply this coursework to the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, making it even more appealing,” McCabe said.

McCabe expects Project Lead the Way enrollment will continue to grow substantially in the new school year, estimating at least 40 schools will offer courses across all grade levels to reach 50,000 or more students.

Local sessions offered by affiliate training partners such as Missouri University of Science & Technology and University of Kansas-Edwards Campus also have helped fuel PLTW growth by reducing travel expenses, McCabe added.

The KC STEM Alliance supports Project Lead the Way with teacher training, networking events and student events, including an annual showcase for senior capstone projects in engineering and biomedical science.

“We know that building a STEM pipeline requires engaging students in multiple ways,” McCabe said. “Project Lead The Way asks students to apply what they’re learning to real-life problems and works well in tandem with STEM-oriented activities students can do outside of school.”


Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development model. For more information, visit

KC STEM Alliance is a collaborative network of educators, business affiliates and organizations that inspires interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers by supporting K-12 STEM education and programs. The KC STEM Alliance partners with organizations like Project Lead the Way that share the vision of creating a robust and sustainable regional STEM workforce. Learn more at