Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 09:04

“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” 

― Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Very often in the business of STEM another acronym is not far behind – PLTW. Project Lead The Way has been seen as the “giant” in the STEM education circuit over the last ten or so years. Their reach is indeed vast with programs being taught in all 50 states and they do call themselves the “nation’s leading provider of STEM programs.” PLTW is a non-profit. Yes, you read that right. PLTW is a 501(c)(3) that cleared just over $2.5million in revenue their last fiscal year.

So, let’s drill down. How does PLTW work? Well, let’s say you are interested in their Biomedical Science course. As a school, you will pay $2,000 just to participate in their Biomedical Science course. Yes, that’s just the participation fee, and it’s an annual one. (Wanna fact check? Yep, you should: We’ll get back to that participation fee in a moment…

Now, let’s say you really want to do this Biomedical Science class right. Like you really want to outfit your classroom and make it top-notch. You want your room to be THE place to be. OK, please add $24,797.69 to that check you were ready to cut. (Still fact checking? Just scroll down that Excel document to the bottom of that “Core Course and Lab Inventory” tab). Oh, and did I mention that’s just for 20 students?

Side note: I challenge you to go to the home page of PLTW and see how long it takes you to find this information.

Certainly there are things you won’t need, making your out-of-pocket expense less. Take a minute, populate that spreadsheet for your classroom and see what you come up with. Oh, and remember to click on the other tabs too – those are individual unit needs within class! {ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching}.

Now take a look at OUR Biomedicine course. Simple to find, right? Easy to navigate? Clear and concise? You bet it is! That’s what we do here at STEM Fuse – we offer clear, concise, ready-to-teach materials that will engage your students. Oh, and did I mention we’re AFFORDABLE? This entire course is $1679 (that includes lab supplies for 60 students! Yes, 60!)

Of course, you want some training on these courses. You want to be sure you know the curriculum backwards and forwards. No problem. Here at STEM Fuse, we’ll train you AND offer professional development for FREE. Nada. Zip. Zilch. “Your money is no good here.”

PLTW on the other hand? Well, that’s a different story entirely. I direct your attention back to the Participation Fee I addressed above. PLTW states in their FAQ section: “Key financial outlays include teacher training, equipment and supplies, and the participation fee.” Notice training is listed here alongside the participation fee. So, that leads you to believe the participation fee does not cover training, right? Exacto-mundo my friend. Read on…

The Participation Fee does not cover:

  • Teacher Core Training costs and related expenses


  • Equipment and supplies, including annual consumables 
  • Unlimited print materials

Side note: Did I mention our curriculum is site based? Once purchased and downloaded, ANY teacher in your building can download, print and teach the course anyway they see fit. Have a fellow teacher covering a unit on Diabetes in his/her health class? No problem! The teacher can download and teach Unit 5 from your Biomedicine class and voila! They’re set! You’ve just made their job easier! Why? Oh, just because we’ve provided the presentations, worksheets and quizzes teachers need. No big deal. (Oh, who am I kidding, it’s a huge deal!)

Back to training for a moment. Each year, various states hold PLTW Counselor Conferences. Free? Nope. However, cost is minimal – between $65 and $195 – but (and this is a big one) “PLTW schools are required to send a minimum of one advisor/counselor annually.” From what I can see, only 2 states (Wisconsin and Louisiana) have Counselor Conferences coming up this spring. Add hotel, flight, car rental, parking, food, cost of a substitute…that minimal cost training has really started adding up.

Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to log onto a Go To Meeting training with a Sales Director and have your questions answered live? Over the course of an hour or so? Or have a Sales Director come TO YOUR SCHOOL and show you how to use the curriculum? (Why yes, Summer, it would be easier.) I know…that’s why I work for STEM Fuse and not PLTW.

I’ll end this blog the same way I started: “Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.” Just because a company is a giant it doesn’t mean they’re better, doesn’t mean they’re stronger, it simply just means they’re bigger. After all, who was victorious – David or Goliath?

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