The Elmore County Technical Center is now one of only three career tech centers in Alabama to receive the Cognia STEM Certification.

“There’s a huge emphasis on STEM education and STEM career and this certification recognizes schools and programs that do a good job of teaching and promoting STEM,” said ECTC director Emilie Johnson. “Cognia isn’t just some organization, it’s the school accreditation organization, so we are really proud of this accomplishment.”

Cognia is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally. Cognia is the largest education improvement organization in the world. Founded in 2006, Cognia represents more than 36,000 institutions with a total of 25 million students and 5 million educators in about 80 counties.

In order to be considered for the certification, Johnson said school’s administration team had to gather evidence and data to show what students are doing in the classroom and how the center is promoting STEM education.

According to Cognia’s website, the organization looks at the “whole institution – its practices, programs, policies, learning conditions and cultural context – to determine how well the parts work together to carry out the institution’s vision and meet the needs of every learner.”

The ECTC offers 12 career and technical educational programs on the ECTC campus in Wetumpka for students from all four county high schools - Elmore County High, Holtville, Stanhope Elmore, and Wetumpka High - as well as the EDGE Virtual School. 

Students can gain nationally recognized certifications and industry credentials that offer them internships and employment opportunities during and after high school. In addition to the high school career and technical education courses, the ECTC offers a variety of technical and academic dual enrollment courses through Central Alabama Community College where students earn college credits toward their career aspirations.

Cognia representatives also facilitated focus group discussions with various stakeholder groups, such as students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members.

“We started this process in 2019 when the former director was here, but then we had a series of bumps in the road and then COVID hit, so we’re glad we are finally able to obtain this,” Johnson said. “This designation shows that we’ve moved beyond what trade schools used to be and into the what career tech schools need to be today. Other schools in the system will likely be following in our footsteps with this STEM certification.”