NEW TECH INSTITUTE HIGH SCHOOL
NETWORK MEMBER SINCE: 2010
We recently hosted a community stakeholder session to gather input for our STEM School Certification. We heard from four alumni: a freshman, a junior, and two seniors in college across the state of Indiana. All of them cited School-Wide Learning Outcomes as vital to their current success. They spoke of the importance of communication and collaboration, as many of their peers did not have experience with these skills.
Prior to this school year: We had weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for Math, English, Science and Social Studies teachers; in addition, our Engineering, Art, and Business teachers had PLCs at the district level. Each PLC kept minutes of the meetings, and tracked action items to ensure progress. Each Wednesday all teachers (except Math teachers) participated in alternating professional development every Wednesday from 2:15 – 3:00pm. One Wednesday consisted of Critical Friends, where teachers shared project ideas and gave/got feedback on their projects. On the alternate Wednesday we had “PBL Group” which was a time for structured professional development geared directly toward helping Project-Based Learning. This Year: Due to our district pausing PLCs this year, we are continuing staff PD in a way that is meaningful and helpful. We have embraced all teachers using the Project Planning Toolkit or Problem Planning Toolkit. Every Wednesday each teacher has Collaborative Planning Time with a two-three week cycle of planning to provide time to build/refine toolkits. Then we have a two-week cycle of structured feedback, where teachers are paired and use a tuning protocol to provide feedback to one another.
In the summer before his junior year (2019), Drake took a look at the group contracts, task sheets, and critical friends forms. He made revisions to better facilitate student collaboration. Near the beginning of the school year, Drake asked for input from Mr. Jones about how these new documents would work. Mr. Jones piloted the forms in one class, and determined that the forms were such an improvement that he incorporated Drake’s new forms in all classes he taught (Innovative Perspectives and Global Perspectives). Mr. Jones is a valued resource for our staff members, and they ask him for resources – such as contracts, task sheets, and CFG forms. Over time, all teachers began to use these forms (revised by a student, empowered to take initiative around an observed need.)
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
From 2010-2020 New Tech has used Block Scheduling. This year, in an attempt to provide more sections of courses to make class sizes smaller, our district moved high schools back to a traditional eight-period day with 47 minute periods. However, the integrated courses are blocked together such that they actually have 94 minutes together each day instead of 90 in previous years. Teacher expectations around curriculum, instruction and assessment include: – posting an agenda every day with objectives, tasks and standards – consult district curriculum maps and state academic standards – guidelines for weighting the grades for school-wide learning outcomes (Included as an uploaded PDF of those specific expectations).
ASSESSMENT AND ECHO PRACTICES
Jennifer Dill also has parents email her to ask for help with ECHO, and she responds with instructions to help them understand what each part of ECHO means. We encourage all parents to get an ECHO account. Jennifer Dill and Ryan Jones conducted ECHO parent help sessions on multiple occasions (Open House, Junior/Freshman parent night, other sessions); we can’t have in-person sessions now due to COVID. There is a reminder in every weekly newsletter to families with the link to ECHO. We worked with the Networked Improvement Community and the American Institutes of Research to improve student agency. Our metrics of tracking student improvement based on resubmission of assignments showed considerable growth for all students. Connection to Equity: all students have the same access to ECHO. If a student does not have Internet access at home, our district is working to get hot spots for them.
At the beginning of every “typical” school year we share a Power Point with all students by grade level in our all purpose room (Assembly Hall). This session was led by our Principal. We help students onboard to Trust, Respect, and Responsibility; this message is a good refresher for continuing students as well. In the freshman Innovative Perspectives class, the first project essentially covers content students should have had in eighth grade to help students learn the PROCESS of PBL and ECHO without having to worry about the content as well. In addition, Drake Hubert (senior) spoke to Innovative Perspective classes about the importance of leadership…which helped provide a role model to freshmen. Due to the pandemic and physical distancing requirements, the start to the 2020-21 school year was different. Our district started school for students in the first half of the alphabet on the first three days, and the remainder of the students attended the second set of three days. Also, since we couldn’t gather in large groups, we provided the presentation to each teacher with a schedule of which activities to present. This shared ownership meant that the onboarding wasn’t coming solely from the principal or one class, but instead from all teachers in all classes. Most of the content we covered included Social Emotional Learning and onboarding. It was impactful for teachers to share this information in class in smaller settings. Also, spending time to get to know one another is helpful as well – and helps to build a climate…and then a culture…of togetherness and mutual respect and support.