Dr. Freda Deskin Explains How ASTEC Charter Schools are Unique in Their Approach
Many inner-city kids are considered disadvantaged. They have some of the lowest high school graduation rates. Many don’t continue their education past high school. Reasons for being disadvantaged range from being low-income to not having the support of their parents because parents work long hours to support the family. Freda Deskin, Ph.D., the founder of ASTEC Charter School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, explains how her charter school is capable of overcoming many problems.
The ASTEC Charter School was founded in 2000 by Dr. Freda Deskin. After being a teacher in inner-city schools and rural schools throughout Oklahoma, she realized that many students needed a different approach. Public schools are too often driven by politics. They are mandated to certain guidelines and bureaucracy. However, while charter schools have the same amount of regulations and paperwork, they have less bureaucracy in general.
Dr. Freda Deskin was able to address serious problems with the ASTEC school. The school was the first start-up charter school that served a highly diverse student body along with a 97% poverty rate. Dr. Freda Deskin was able to get into the psychology of why the students were struggling and provide the added support that they needed.
Today, the ASTEC charter schools focus on a few important traits, including character, content, competency, and community. Deskin wanted to ensure that inner-city students were getting the support they needed to succeed. As such, the students are taught about not only content but also character, manners and etiquette. They learn how to be self-sufficient. They also learn about the importance of community in terms of getting support and giving back.
ASTEC Charter Schools serve middle school and high school students. However, September 2019 also made history as it was when ASTEC chose to break ground on its first elementary school. This will provide a higher level of support for high-poverty students, getting the unique educational approach from day one of their endeavors.
Today, ASTEC charter schools are providing education to more than 1000 scholars, and there is a waiting list of several hundred more. The elementary schools, which will open in the fall of 2020 will add 325 more students. What Dr. Freda Deskin has done has given children greater opportunities in and out of the classroom. The STEAM school ensures that students are engaged. They learn about engineering, liberal arts, and entrepreneurship. It ensures that inner-city students who would typically never be given opportunities are given them.
Additionally, a food pantry, a clothing closet, access to free community resources, counseling and resources for ASTEC’s community partnerships, ease the financial burdens for many of these families. This allows students to focus of learning to a greater degree.
The goal has and continues to be to help improve graduation rates and improve lives. It is also to ensure that every graduating senior feels as though they have the entire world in front of them. Dr. Freda Deskin has made it her life’s work to contribute to the community, and ASTEC charter schools have proven that they are capable of making a difference throughout Oklahoma City.
Many traditional public schools provide an excellent general education for a wide variety of students, but some studies find that these schools do not meet the needs of many gifted children unless they have a magnet school within the district. Those students who have a higher level of capabilities for technology, engineering, and other processes may want to consider ASTEC Charter Schools as an alternative. This Oklahoma school has become the face of alternative learning in the region, as stated by Freda Deskin, Ph.D, the founder of the school.
What is ASTEC Charter Schools? | Dr. Freda Deskin
ASTEC Charter Schools is a public charter school founded by Dr. Freda Deskin in 2000 to provide gifted students with a unique type of learning experience. Dr. Deskin states that technology and engineering are critical elements of this school. However, she has also said that ASTEC Charter Schools is focused on creating a great character, proper etiquette, and a higher level of social awareness than she sees in many public school children.
As a result, those who start at ASTEC Charter Schools – during their middle school years – take nine-weeks course character education, manners, and etiquette. These classes help to teach good manners and behavior, which Dr. Freda Deskin believes helps to make students better learners. These lessons also help students respect their parents and others more fully, Dr. Deskin believes, which helps them integrate with society more successfully.
Throughout a student’s years at ASTEC, these lessons are reinforced and rewarded, creating a school culture that is calm and respectful.
An Advanced Course Load | ASTEC Charter Schools
At ASTEC Charter Schools, students get hands-on experience with a myriad of unique technology. Dr. Freda Deskin states that her school leads the way in technological innovation in Oklahoma when it comes to students having technology as a core class everyday. ASTEC continually upgrades its classrooms to ensure that all students get access to a variety of technology. At ASTEC Charter Schools, Dr. Deskin and her team work to ensure that all students, including those identified as gifted can learn in an environment that satisfies their needs.
For example, students have the choice of several electives and in and out of school activities such as “Maker’s Clubs,” robotics and engineering. They also have the option of continuous learning by enrolling in ASTEC’s online Personal Learning Academy. The class is in a large classroom during school hours, with a teacher present. Students work at their own pace and progress through required school subjects.
ASTEC also has an ACE program for credit recovery. The Academic Commitment to Education allows a student to forgo one of his/her electives during the school day to work on course work they may have failed previously. This prevents students from having to pay for and attend summer school. Many low-income students have to work in the summer and having this option helps the entire family.
“ASTEC Charter Schools work to see that all students receive a well-rounded education,” Dr. Freda Deskin states. Discouraged by the increased focus on “career preparation” and less on “character enhancement” she noticed in high school and college environments, Dr. Deskin hopes that ASTEC Charter Schools can fill that void in students’ lives.
A Busy Social Lifestyle | ASTEC Charter Schools
Students interested in attending ASTEC Charter Schools may worry about their chances of social engagement. However, Dr. Freda Deskin understood this factor and has integrated many unique social opportunities for her students. For example, rowing and kayaking teams are available at ASTEC Charter Schools, as are various types of robotics clubs, golf, tennis, track, HealthCorps, many summer camps, intramural athletics, and trips to museums and theater productions.
These activities not only enhance a student’s socialization, Dr. Deskin states, but also their mind. Students who feel they fit in socially and culturally do better in college and throughout life. Deskin encourages students to create groups through their “Maker’s Clubs to enhance their mental powers. And she also believes that athletics and competition help strengthen the body and a student’s motivation. When students compete, they see all levels of competencies up to and including excellence. Seeing excellence allows them to see what they can accomplish in the future.
Dr. Freda Deskin Shares How To Keep Your Child Succeeding In The New Normal Of COVID-19
Founder of Oklahoma City’s ASTEC Charter School network, Freda Deskin, Ph.D., understands how difficult it can be to transition your child from their classroom to at-home learning. Kids thrive on consistency and knowing what’s going to happen next, and the uncertainty of when they’ll return to school can make it hard for them to focus. Here, Dr. Deskin shares her tips about how to make the next few weeks (or months) easier on your kids when it comes to learning at home.
Dr. Freda Deskin encourages parents to talk to their kids about how they’re feeling about schooling at home. Most kids express missing their friends and teachers, as well as missing their favorite subjects at school. Dr. Freda Deskin recommends offering to set up a Google Meet for kids so that they can connect with friends, and working to incorporate extension activities within the realm of their favorite subject to help them engage in learning at home. At ASTEC, teachers work closely with students to help them develop their own interests and passions. Dr. Deskin recommends doing the same at home.
Having a specific area of the home set aside for schoolwork whenever possible can be helpful, explains Dr. Freda Deskin. While it can be tempting to do work lounging on the couch all day, it’s important for your child’s brain to associate certain areas of the home with relaxation, and others with work. You don’t need a ton of space to make this happen such as a portion of the kitchen table. It is not a good idea to have students on their devices in their own room where they cannot be monitored by an adult. The best of students can easily get off task.\
Difference in Online Learning | Dr. Freda Deskin of ASTEC Charter Schools
Dr. Freda Deskin recommends, above all, providing a safe space for your child to express themselves when they feel stressed or worried about the future of their education. At ASTEC, students have stellar counselors who are there to help them with their concerns, and kids need that at home, too. Some students worry about falling behind as they miss out on classroom experiences, while others worry about how they’ll fare when it’s time to take harder classes in the coming school year. Dr. Freda Deskin recommends that you listen to your child and validate their fears, while also reminding them that the vast majority of students in the country are in the same situation. Dr. Freda Deskin believes it’s important to remember that these times are unprecedented, and it’s ok to share with your child that you have some anxiety and fear as well.
Giving a gift to someone without expecting anything in return is one of the most loving things a person can do, says Freda Deskin, Ph.D. For those that don’t have access to or don’t want to simply spend money on a gift, a gift of your time is one of the most selfless acts a person can do. But volunteering isn’t just a one-way street, Dr. Freda Deskin says. Volunteering has some benefits for the giver as well. Some benefits of doing service for others are very personal and remain under the surface but are, in fact, a definite benefit for the giver. Here, Dr. Freda Deskin talks about some of the ways volunteering has helped someone.
Volunteering is a $2.8 billion a year industry, Dr. Freda Deskin says, which is growing every year as more and more people donate their time and resources to nonprofit businesses and their community. “It consists of many types of activities,” she adds, “but one that is near and dear to my heart is community work.” When people think of community service, they usually think about that which is mandated by the court system, Dr. Freda Deskin says. However, it’s so much more than that. For example, think of all the services that your city or town provides, she begins. Many of these are unpaid positions that require the services of volunteers. These are people just like you who have decided to give back to their community in the form of volunteer work, Dr. Freda Deskin adds.
One of the biggest benefits I see in volunteering is that it helps you gain compassion for others, Dr. Freda Deskin says. “Of course, it helps the organization you’re volunteering for, but I’m talking about the benefits the volunteer gets,” she explains. When you help someone less fortunate than yourself without any expectation, what you learn is compassion.
Learning compassion like this is priceless, she says, especially for children who haven’t been exposed to much beyond their own neighborhood. Dr. Freda Deskin says she has seen several teens turn into mature, compassionate adults when the family volunteers in their own community on a regular basis. “I think it’s about seeing someone in a situation you might have never thought about,” she says. “Sometimes it makes people stop and think and be thankful for all they have.”
Dr. Freda Deskin says she has seen volunteering give meaning to the life of the volunteer. Just the act of giving of yourself and seeing the gratitude of others can make such a huge difference in your outlook on life. It makes you feel good to contribute to others in this way, she says. “I know it has made a difference in mine.”
In the past several years, educators and parents have been participating in a national conversation about the barriers that prevent young women and girls from pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The discussion is encouraging, says renowned educator Dr. Freda Deskin, herself a finalist in NASA’s “Teacher-in-Space” project as well as a champion of STEM educational opportunities for female students, but of course we need to do more than just talk about the topic.
What are some ways that parents and teachers can bring the sciences alive for young women? How can they incorporate these subjects into daily interactions? What steps can we take, on an everyday basis, to ensure that girls and women aren’t shut out of STEM fields before they even get their start? Dr. Freda Deskin has some surprisingly simple solutions for showing girls that STEM is for them.
1. Give STEM “Edutainment” Equal Opportunity
Every teacher knows that the best way to educate is often to entertain. So make sure that girls get plenty of time to read books about technology topics, suggests Dr. Freda Deskin. Watch videos that make science simply fascinating, and learn about the way mathematics informs every aspect of our daily existence.
When holidays roll around, consider a subscription box that helps girls learn physics or engineering. Suggest that relatives gift chemistry sets, robot-building kits, rock tumblers, or other presents that aren’t dolls or makeup sets.
2. Do a Little Learning Yourself
Quick: name 5 famous female scientists — who aren’t Marie Curie. How’d you do? Unless you are interested or involved in STEM yourself, you may not be familiar with some of the pioneering women who blazed trails for today’s female scientists and engineers. Fortunately, it’s easy to change that, says Dr. Freda Deskin.
Head to the local library and pick up some biographies or collections of stories about STEM pioneers who just happened to be women. You can find books that you and your daughter or students can enjoy together. Don’t forget to discuss what you’ve learned.
3. Help Her Get Hands-On
Let your little girl roll up her sleeves and dive right in — the earlier, the better. Negative perceptions about ability in tech and math start young, unfortunately, so do what you can to counter those. Teach toddlers to count and add at every turn throughout your day. Build a backyard trebuchet together, or bake a batch of cookies to learn some simple chemistry. Or let your machine-minded second-grader take apart an old desktop computer to see how it ticks.
One of the easiest ways to encourage young girls to learn STEM lessons, Dr. Freda Deskin says, is by saying “yes” to her curiosity whenever possible.
If you are a woman in the STEM fields, or an educator whose focus or specialty is in one of these subjects, we’d love to hear from you! What are your best tips for helping girls get excited — and stay confident — about studying science and math? Let us know in the comments or connect with us on social media!
As a parent, you make decisions every day that affect your children’s health, happiness, well-being, and even their future. One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make is which school your kids will attend. And while academic excellence is certainly one of the crucial criteria informing your choice of school, there are other elements that must be considered: the number and type of extracurricular activities, how dedicated and compassionate the staff and teachers are, the diversity of the student body, and the overall atmosphere where your child will be spending the majority of their days.
Freda Deskin, CEO of ASTEC Charter Schools in Oklahoma City, wants to make the case for considering a charter school. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where charter schools have been established, they may very well represent the best decision for your children. Read on to learn why!
- The More Choice, the Better
In rural communities, there may be only one public school available. In inner cities, public schools and their students often struggle with issues such as poverty, violence, high levels of teacher turnover (and burnout), and outdated or inadequate materials and supplies. There may be private schools to provide an alternative, but for families that are middle- to lower-class, a private-school education simply isn’t in the budget.
Enter charter schools. According to Freda Deskin, they provide the same quality education as private schools, but without the private-school price tag.
- A Diverse Environment
At public schools, eligibility for enrollment usually depends on the student’s address. And that makes sense: bussing children from distant neighborhoods is an expense that most public schools, already strapped for funding, simply can’t justify.
Charter schools, on the other hand, are open to any student, regardless of where they live. This generally results in a much more diverse student body — and that, in turn, will enrich your child’s educational experience by exposing them to different cultures, customs, and viewpoints.
- Greater Freedom — and Accountability
One of the major reasons parents choose charter schools for their children is the freedom these educational institutions generally have to develop and apply their own curricula, administrative model, and pedagogical approach. They can set policies and standards according to what’s best for the students — not just what’s least expensive, or what state-mandated programs require.
The other side of that coin, increased accountability, is yet another plus, says Freda Deskin. Because charter schools are accountable to the families they serve, they are motivated to meet high standards. If they do not meet their self-directed goals, parents will respond by transferring their students to another school.
- Specializations Result In Better Education
What subjects make your children excited about learning? Where do their interests lie? Are they already setting their sights on a particular career path? While most public schools provide a basic education that covers the core subjects, charter schools are free to specialize in a particular area of education.
At ASTEC, Freda Deskin and her colleagues help inspire kids who enjoy science and technology. Other charter schools focus on the performing and/or visual arts, business and leadership, career and technical education, dual-language instruction, and so on. That isn’t to say that they ignore core subjects, but by providing specialized, in-depth instruction, charter schools engage their students and encourage them to follow their passion — leading to higher attendance rates and graduation rates, among other benefits.
- Smaller Class Size
Public schools are often overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed. This means a much lower teacher-to-student ratio and much less opportunity for teachers to connect with individual students. Sometimes, all it takes to turn around a troubled child or a poor academic performer is a little bit of attention from their instructors. At charter schools, this type of connection is possible because of smaller classes as well as teachers who have the time and energy to build a relationship with each and every child.
Charter school advocates such as Freda Deskin say that there are many more benefits to this type of education. No matter what goals you have set for your children, or where their interests and strengths lie, there is a charter school that can help them achieve academic and social success.
Just how important is it for girls to receive education in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields? Let’s hear from young women themselves: according to a report commissioned by Microsoft called Closing the STEM Gap, over three-quarters of girls who had extracurricular instruction in hands-on STEM activities said that they felt empowered – compared to only 50% of girls whose exposure to STEM lessons was limited to classroom instruction.
Dr. Freda Deskin, an award-winning educator who has championed STEM-focused curricula as part of an overreaching, egalitarian approach to education, is thrilled to be participating in a national dialogue about gender and the role it plays in school and beyond. Why is it still so crucial to encourage young women to get excited about science, math, and similar subjects? Let’s take a closer look!
- They May Be More Likely to Change the World
Who runs the world? Girls, of course – or at least that’s what superstar Beyonce and her legions of fans believe. Turns out that there’s some evidence to back up Queen Bey’s assertion, especially when it comes to saving the world. Pew Research found that women in the United States are significantly more likely than their male counterparts – by a margin of 17 percentage points – to say that climate change is a “somewhat” or “very” serious issue.
Freda Deskin encourages young female scholars to maintain their enthusiasm and idealism as they decide on a career path. With degrees in STEM subjects under their belts, women will be uniquely poised to lead the charge against global warming, the spread of infectious disease, hunger, and food insecurity, and the eradication of animal species.
- STEM Careers Could Help Narrow the Wage Gap
Believe it or not, there remains a significant difference between the amount of money women earn and the salaries commanded by men in the very same positions. The wage gap has narrowed somewhat in the decades since it was first identified, Freda Deskin says. But even as recently as 2018, women’s median hourly pay was still only 85% of what men earn.
Enter STEM degrees, and careers, which many educators and economic analysts believe will help to chip away at the remaining 15%. Among adults who have a four-year degree, those who take jobs in the fields of science, engineering, math, and technology earn higher salaries than the average worker.
Freda Deskin reports that the STEM disciplines are growing, as our culture becomes ever-more enmeshed with technology. Both private industry and the government are investing in these areas. By holding a greater share of these lucrative positions, women will be more easily able to close the gender wage gap altogether.
- STEM’s Lessons Set Women Up for Success
The number of adults who are choosing to marry is another telling statistic. In 1960, only one in 10 people choose to stay single; in 2018, about twice as many made that choice. This means that more and more women need to develop the skills that will allow them to live independently – and many of those skills can be honed through the study of STEM subjects.
We’re talking about critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation, decision making, leadership, entrepreneurship, and even hands-on skills such as carpentry, appliance repair, and general household repairs. In other words, sisters are doin’ it for themselves — and much of it is due to STEM education.
It’s clear that paving the way for young girls to study science and the other disciplines included in STEM education will not only benefit the individual scholars themselves but also has the potential to transform society and maybe even Mother Earth herself. Freda Deskin is certainly doing her part. In a future post, she’ll talk about ways you can actively encourage the girls and young women in your life to pursue and enjoy STEM studies.
An awful lot of lip service is given — both in the national media and, on a smaller scale, in commencement speeches and in individual schools’ mission statements and other public relations collateral — to the importance of encouraging female students to engage with STEM subjects and to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But travel to one middle- and high-school campus in Oklahoma City, OK, and you’ll find an award-winning educator who has embodied that encouragement, and indeed an overall commitment to educational excellence, for four decades — and who shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Her name is Dr. Freda Deskin, and she is the CEO and founder of the Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter (ASTEC) Schools.
Opened by Freda Deskin in 2000 as Oklahoma’s first charter school, ASTEC focuses on technology and the other STEM disciplines as core subjects but is also dedicated to integrating liberal arts. Moreover, this institution’s holistic approach to education offers something that not many schools do: a nine-week foundational class in character education. ASTEC students receive instruction in the so-called soft skills that are often overlooked by districts focused on test scores, dropout rates, and attendance statistics. ASTEC’s student-centered approach is predicated on the notion that young scholars who are also given lessons in manners and etiquette, social and cultural awareness, entrepreneurship, and life skills will naturally be more engaged with, and more successful in, the academic portion of their education.
Freda Deskin and her colleagues also recognize the role that wellness plays in their students’ potential to achieve. Because of ASTEC’s dedication to helping children maintain good physical health as a complement to their intellectual development, it was named Oklahoma’s first HealthCore school in 2012. ASTEC offers fresh food, prepared on-site, to all students for breakfast and lunch. The students help maintain a clothing closet and food pantry to help less-fortunate members of their community, as well.
Freda Deskin says that ASTEC’s academics are second-to-none, a claim borne out by the fact that fully 99% of graduating scholars go on to college or another higher educational institute. Students who graduate from ASTEC are well-regarded in the greater Oklahoma City area, as the school has built a reputation for teaching sound values — respect, honesty, civility, community, and the importance of public service — in addition to calculus, chemistry, robotics, English literature, and other traditional subjects.
Among the activities offered on an extracurricular basis at ASTEC are bowling, soccer, basketball, tennis, cross-country, and golf. And its high school rowing team, adds Freda Deskin, has placed first in the Oklahoma City Regatta for the past three years.
ASTEC doesn’t just care about its gifted and talented program, its absenteeism rate, its test scores, or the awards and recognition that its students and educators earn year after year. It focuses on the whole student — whether that child has eaten a healthy breakfast, how she speaks to her peers and her elders, her time-management skills, her relationships at home and at school, her unique talents and her particular challenges, and perhaps most vital of all, the self-esteem, confidence, and determination she develops during these formative years spent under the ASTEC roof.