New Tech breathes new enthusiasm in Gary classrooms
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 August 19, 2012 10:26PM
Principal Esther Goodes calls off students names she memorized with them Thursday afternoon during a class exercise at the New Tech Innovative Institute at the Gary Area Career Center. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
How it began
The first New Technology High School school debuted in 1996 in Napa, Calif. It was forged by a partnership of businesses and community educational leaders.
There are more than 100 New Tech schools nationwide today.
“The backbone of NTHS’s unique learning environment is Project-Based Learning. Instead of handing out daily assignments, teachers assign periodic projects with different components. Components may include a written essay and a digital project such as a website, PowerPoint presentation, or photo essay. Finally, students are asked to present their work orally to their classmates. Students work on these projects either individually, with a partner, or in a group.”*
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:08AM
GARY — There’s an energy and a focus that runs through the halls of Gary New Tech High School.
It’s the first day of school and students are already engrossed in projects at the Gary Career Center where the second-year school is housed.
Sophomore Patrice Ezell describes it best: “It gives you a different way of learning and it gets you hooked on technology.”
The school isn’t all gadgets and computers, though. Ezell said school officials provide her with a sense of belonging and security.
“The principal here cares. If you’re not here, they call your home. For me, it’s a great opportunity. It got me away from trouble.”
Gary New Tech is a hybrid of high tech ideas and homespun values that seem to connect with kids.
Under Principal Esther Goodes, the school began its second year Aug. 15 and it now includes two grades — 9th and 10th, with 100 students in each grade. In two years, it will be a complete 9-12 school with a maximum enrollment of 400.
The school is part of the national New Tech school craze. There are 21 New Tech schools in Indiana, including Calumet New Tech at Calumet High School in the Lake Ridge Schools.
Goodes said New Tech schools are based on collaborative studies in which contracts are created and students hold one another responsible. Teachers provide the structure, but then step aside and the kids figure it out.
“It’s a culture based on trust, respect and responsibility,” said Goodes, a former teacher.
All the project-based lessons dovetail with the state’s academic standards, Goodes said.
Technology underpins the learning here. Students receive Dell laptops, there are no textbooks.
The kids can use their cell phones in their studies, though. The students successfully appealed the School Board’s 1997 ban of cell phones after showing board members a snazzy video that explained how they could use the devices in their learning. The board approved the use under a pilot program this year, Goodes said.
So far, the results are good. Goodes said 67 percent of freshman last year passed the algebra component of the state’s end-of-course assessment.
At New Tech, disciplines intertwine with the technology.
Last year, students in the biology-literature class created a video game with names of the cell structure matched to literary terms. World civilization-sociology students shared viewpoints with students in Uganda via Skype.
The School Board approved the launch of a New Tech program last year, naming Goodes as principal. The school opened within the former Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy but moved to the Career Center this year after the state named a private takeover operator to run Roosevelt.
Board member Marion Williams likes the program, so far. “We have to think of things that are more innovative, we have to put more on the table,” he said of the district’s curriculum offerings.
The school district pays the not-for-profit New Tech Network $125,000 a year for training and support.
It has a dozen teachers and a special needs teacher.
Biology teacher Anna Swope said the school has allowed her to teach “out of my comfort zone.”
She and other teachers underwent nearly a year of training and the continue to receive professional development training. “I like the collaboration and relationships with students and other staff members.”
Jason Arndt, the parent of a New Tech sophomore, said his son loves the school. “It’s one school he doesn’t complain about. I think it’s awesome to use technology and teams to arrive at the achievement of a goal,” said Arndt.