Each New Tech Network demonstration school must develop a clear set of student learning outcomes consistent with skills required to succeed in college, career or civic life. These include content mastery tied to state standards as well as work ethic/collaboration, critical thinking and oral and written communication. All courses demonstrated rigorous and relevant Project-Based Learning (PBL) to amplify deeper learning while engaging students in the classroom. The deep integration and use of technology is present in all classrooms. Finally, a school culture that establishes students at the center, built on trust, respect, and responsibility must be evident throughout the school.
A site for observing strong PBL Implementation:
“We would like to set a standard for our district as well as a site available for other schools looking at joining the Network to visit. It has always been a goal of this school to, one day, function as a lab and incubator for PBL.”
Strategies for building the capacity of new teachers to understand the pedagogical practices involved with PBL and NTN
“Six weeks into the school year, the new teachers and a veteran teacher did a one-day retreat off campus to address NTKs around PBL that had emerged as they began teaching in a project-based environment. They were joined in the afternoon by two additional veteran teachers to address content-specific questions. An additional retreat day is planned for the spring to look at critical friends protocols and offer ongoing support for new teacher instructional needs.”
Strategies for helping parents understand how to leverage their use of Echo
Parents are invited to attend two Echo training sessions (Echo 101 and Echo 201) so that they can be directly involved in their student’s education and hold their students accountable for their class work.
Approach and focus on building agency and student leadership skills
Our students also have had many opportunities to be leaders in our school throughout the school year outside of normal school hours. These activities include the Towles CANstruction team, Student Ambassador and Advisory Council, and TED-Ed Club Student Facilitators (2015-16). These leadership positions give many of our students an opportunity for social growth among their peers and enables them to develop the leadership skills required for success in college and the workforce. In our Student Ambassador and Advisory Council, we train the students to be leaders through a leadership curriculum we have created that teaches students how to act around adults and interact with adults in a business setting.
Weidner School if Inquiry @ PHS
Using an inclusive approach to leadership and ongoing teacher support and development
On the Leadership side of the Learning Organization Framework, we have created a Leadership Team each year who meets regularly to discuss student and staff issues and the process of improvement. We are in our 4th year as a New Tech school and we have had four staff members complete Trainer Certification and nearly all members completed portions of the Teacher Certification track. We have nominated 8 of our 14 staff members to be members of the Plymouth High School Teacher Leader Cadre. We currently have one staff member who serves as a Lead Teacher for Plymouth High School. Samantha Schwartz supports teachers in WSOI and PHS through coaching, feedback, and learning walks. Additionally, members of our staff act as mentors of new staff members. Through mentorship they offer feedback, collaborative opportunities, observations, and support. Furthermore, we have teachers who have led our professional development, been a member of the CRA Cohort team, led book studies, student groups, etc. Our amazing staff takes great pride and ownership in their school and these efforts can be seen in the latest staff survey. Our success is an absolute team effort with each and every voice considered valuable and each and every contribution considered necessary for sustaining our school.
Washington Discovery Academy
Focusing on Literacy embedded in deep PBL
Washington Discovery Academy is dedicated to the integration of effective literacy strategies within high-quality PBL practices. Using the principles of improvement science, the WDA staff are regularly testing out new ideas for how to best support the learning needs of their students.
We feel we continue to be an innovative environment practicing many PBL, leadership, and school improvement best practices and we value sharing our learning with others. More than just being innovative, we feel we are pushing the envelope for what PBL and New Tech implementation looks like in an elementary setting.
Innovation Academy @Lincoln
High-quality engaging projects
Innovation Academy projects are designed by facilitators using the NTN Project Quality Checklist. Projects are routinely designed collaboratively by our facilitators and often taken through critical friends protocols to ensure quality. Structures [that support our PBL/PrBL]:
- Brain dump-quick, project ideation for projects in the beginning stages
- Critical Friends-a protocol involving a team of people to help develop projects into rigorous learning for students.
- Looking at Student Work-facilitator brings low, medium, and high samples of student work for team to examine.
- Problem of practice-a problem is submitted for team to help give ideas or solve.
- Digital walk-through-look at an Echo briefcase
- Live walk-throughs -facilitators spend time observing best practices in other’s classrooms
Central Coast New Tech High School
Strong Student Culture
Students are connected, engaged, and challenged in a variety of ways. Students experience high levels of connection at Central Coast New Tech through our strong school culture, actively connecting their rigorous academics to their local communities, and engaging with each other and adults through exceptional PBL and PrBL best practices set in place by the staff. Each week we celebrate students that model our CCNTH Pledge in our Super Star celebration. This is an integral part of student connection and engagement.
Lakeland Leading Edge High School
Strategies from the Assessment Improvement Community Inform Practices
Our major focus for the school year is developing a deeper understanding of content knowledge within our students to increase student achievement on newer more rigorous standardized assessments. We are members of the Assessment Improvement Community and currently focusing on improving our use of and integration of performance assessments (IAKTs). We have used the PDSA model to design some changes to our assessment practices and to test those changes in individual classrooms before implementing those changes on a more wide-scale basis throughout the spring. We have seen improved student performance through our early trials and these have led us to encourage more frequent use of performance tasks that focus on 1 or 2 targeted areas of the Knowledge and Thinking rubrics, completing more modeling for students and conferencing more with students to provide more detailed feedback.
Napa Junction Magnet Elementary
Intentional approach to strengthening project quality
Grade level teams have sub release days often. We use these days to improve the PBL units. The NTN Project Quality Checklist guides the conversations as grade level teams reflect on past, current and future projects. Over the past 2 ½ years, the focus has moved from developing units that have all the proper elements to units that are engaging and have student friendly resources to units that have academic rigor to where we are today, improving authenticity and adult connections as well as assessment practices.
Katherine Smith Elementary School
Soliciting feedback from all stakeholders
When we initially began the process, we collected feedback from all stakeholders. First, we surveyed students, parents, and staff. This was done formally and informally. The formal electronic surveys include:
NTN Culture Survey (Fall, Winter, and Spring)
YouthTruth Student Survey (Winter and Spring)
YouthTruth Staff Survey (Spring)
YouthTruth Family Survey (Spring)
Newsletter tear-off (for those who prefer paper)
A more informal collection of feedback is done through meetings and face-to-face interactions. These include collecting data/feedback from staff and students through weekly staff meetings and daily class meetings. For parents, we hold a meeting once per week. Like with the staff data collection, we had parents brainstorm strengths and needs. For all three groups, open-ended feedback was encouraged. With each group, data points recorded on post-it notes were sorted by a smaller leadership team into categories. For the staff we made it a fun game – The Amazing Place. We gathered a ton of feedback and had fun, too.
As a result of our end of the year reflection, the Strategic Team spent some time talking about how to continue to move our school forward and be mindful of the feedback that we received.
Sioux Falls New Tech High School
Strategies to support high-quality PBL/PrBL design and implementation
All facilitators submit project or problem snapshots to administration 5 days in advance of rollout. This is where we evaluate all snapshots for project components as they relate to the 6 A’s rubric and also look for the inclusion of numeracy and literacy tasks, assessments, and project pacing. Facilitators also utilize the critical friends protocol both informally and formally to solicit ideas for projects, entry events, rubrics, scaffolding activities, facilitation structures, etc. We have formalized critical friends groups meet once a month. Grade level and vertical teams also have the option of hosting critical friends within their bi-monthly meetings.
Tech Valley High School
Implementing an Approach that Allows Additional Planning Time for Teachers
Faculty members are committed to educating students in a learning environment that inspires exploration, discovery and a passion for learning. The school-wide learning outcomes are present throughout all project planning, lessons, feedback, assessments, and reflection. As part of a regular self-check and goal setting process, the staff engages in a yearly analysis of its practices by using the NTN School Success Rubric to self-reflect, “tag” where they feel they are, and discuss as a whole staff. In this way the staff works to ensure alignment with the rubric and make goals for the year for continuous improvement.
Tech Valley HS teachers work an additional 4 weeks in the summer after the students leave in order to focus on curriculum and school improvement. A committee of teachers work with the principal to plan the focus and tasks for those 4 weeks. One initiative that has been launched by the faculty this summer in regards to the SWLO’s is to rank the descriptors under each category so that they may be more closely aligned to a grade level for mastery opportunities.
Innovation @ Riverside
Identifying Strategies to Support All Learners
The “Blackboard configuration” also successfully supports students within these targets of the rubric by creating opportunities for teaching to mastery of listed objectives, as well as creating authentic connections between objectives and project related tasks. This research-based strategy keeps the facilitators on task but also the students. The parents and teachers use this as a consistent resource. The objective provides a consistent reminder, throughout class and at home, of the important aspects of the day’s class and weekly (monthly) activities. We see success through parent feedback as well as beginning, middle, and end informal checks for understanding.
As we have EL students, we also include a language objective along with the content objective. This is a strategy for SIOP – Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. SIOP strategies are used to assist English Learners but help all students.
Rogers New Technology High School
Communicating a Compelling ”Why” for Their Work”
The stakeholders of Rogers New Technology High School are prideful in what we have done and what we have yet to do! We believe in this model and have seen first-hand the benefits for adult learners and young adult learners alike. We aim to continually challenge ourselves to grow, both as individual facilitators, and as a learning organization. The process of applying to be a demonstration site has forced us to take a close look at our practices and encouraged reflection and growth. Becoming a demonstration site will ensure that trend continues because the visitors to our campus can provide a lens that we cannot duplicate on our own. The visits will also serve as accountability to always be the best that we can be. Accountability is a good thing!
Our enrollment cap is 900, which means that only 900 learners a year will have the opportunity to develop skills through a project-based learning environment, which we believe is best for kids. Hosting site visits will give us the opportunity to impact the larger educational community and hopefully play a role in the transformation of education across the country. The only way to reach more learners is to share with other learning institutions that are considering doing education differently. Currently, Arkansas does not have a demonstration site! However, not just any school should represent the Network, but an outstanding school dedicated to doing education differently like Rogers New Technology High School!
Additionally, the demonstration site distinction will provide further validation to the community, learners, and parents that Rogers New Technology High School is a quality learning organization that can be trusted with the education of the future. In spring 2016, Rogers New Technology High School received our first national level recognition, when we were included by US News and World Report in their annual list of “America’s Best High Schools.” Taken together, these accolades will also assist our district wide discussions about vision, future, funding, etc. in addition to providing the opportunity to reflect on our progress and take the next step in making higher-level improvements.
Becoming a New Tech Network Demonstration Site allows us to illustrate the benefits of shared learning and leverage the opportunity to collaborate with prospective New Tech schools to create a transformative atmosphere for learners. We strive to be an organization that effectively demonstrates what is possible when the pedagogy used makes learning relevant and to prove that high school “kids” can bring immediate value to the workforce and community.