Statewide GIS License from Esri Supports Washington's STEM Goals

ArcGIS Software Helps K-12 Students Develop Critical-Thinking Skills

January 24, 2011

Redlands, California—The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has signed an agreement that provides all K–12 schools, districts, and formal youth clubs in the state with free access to Esri's ArcGIS software. The agreement aligns with OSPI's approach to technology integration as a multifaceted way to support effective instruction and deepen student understanding of standards-based curricula.

"We've got to teach kids how to analyze information and solve problems," says state school superintendent Randy Dorn. "These are the skills that count in today's world. And we know in the classroom or when students get to do real fieldwork, GIS [geographic information system] technology helps kids learn these skills."

Because of the unique ability of GIS to visualize spatial data—making complex concepts clear and understandable—teachers are quick to take advantage of the strong instructional support it provides in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

While the statewide license is new, individual schools in Washington have been using ArcGIS for several years. Fourth-grade students at Waterville Elementary School study and map the habits of the short-horned lizard (horny toad) as an annual class project. Accomplished through close work with scientists at the University of Washington and local farmers, their efforts have altered the understanding of the region's ecosystem and biodiversity. See the video Technology Empowers Student Fieldwork.

"Our STEM educators are excited about several course applications that hold great potential for GIS technology—environmental sustainability and design and the agricultural sciences," says Dennis Small, director of educational technology at OSPI. "However, most problem–solution activities in the core curricula have a spatial component, so we want to put GIS in the hands of Washington State teachers as a tool that can expand the way kids think about solving a problem."

The four-year statewide GIS license not only will enhance K–12 education but also is set to become a key software component of the STARS Project, an online system that enables Washington school districts to submit school bus operation data for review and analysis. ArcGIS will manage the calculation and distribution of student transportation funds to the districts based on the state's new funding formula.

For more information about Esri's GIS for Schools program, visit

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About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state's 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran's status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.

The following employee has been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination:

Title IX/Section 504 Coordinator
Equity and Civil Rights Director
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA  98504-7200
(360) 725-6162
For more information, visit the OSPI Web site at

Press Information
Contact: Nathan Olson, OSPI Communications Manager
Tel.: 360-725-6015

Press Information:
Jim Baumann, Esri
Tel.: 909-793-2853, extension 1-1807
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