July 23, 2011

Using technology to improve students’ motivation and performance and to prepare them for entering college and the job market are the primary goals for Calumet High School and the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, a charter school.

Calumet High, which has 8,600 students, is the first Northwest Indiana School to implement the New Tech Program.

Program Director Cynthia Trevino explains that the schools began looking at particular students in high school who were failing their state assessments and not prepared for life in the 21st Century and that’s when school administrators began to explore options to help solve the problem. “However, we were not looking for a quick fix or a band aid to get us by. With the direction and vision of our Superintendent, Dr. Sharon-Johnson Shirley, we began to research high school transformation models.” Trevino says it took two years of research and data analysis before deciding to adopt New Tech last year.

“It possessed not only the rigorous and relevant academic strategies for our students to be successful beyond state assessments, but also the personal, social, and professional strategies to be successful in an ever-changing 21st Century society.” Trevino says. The New Tech program is a project-based learning approach with heavy reliance on technology. All students have access to computers and the web. The program promotes self-directed learning with an online management system.

Calumet High has a three prong transformational goal for the New Tech model, Trevino says. “The first is the transformation of students into successful contributors to the global society. We are equipping our students with the academic tools necessary to not only be self-directed learners in an ever-changing information age, but also with the soft skills necessary to be successful personally, socially, and professionally, including communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving skills.”

The second prong is community based. “Through creating a pool of highly prepared 21st Century students, we hope to bring economic development to Gary, Indiana,” Trevino says. “We know that the business sector is in desperate need of skilled 21st Century workers and we want to work together with the city of Gary and businesses to attract and create job opportunities.”

The third goal is to effect transformation in the education sector.

“We have long-term goals to be not only a school of research and development, but a leader in providing education with high quality professional development to bring to scale the work we need to do in education in order to become a global leader in the 21st Century,” Trevino explains. The first year of the New Tech program has been a success.

“With the combination of the eight-step process, a data driven assessment and remediation system to ensure students are mastering the standards, along with the New Tech model, the growth of our students in the first year has gone beyond our expectations,” Trevino says. “Not only were our students substantially more successful on the state assessments, the personal and social growth they achieved through project-based learning and the focus on developing 21st Century skills has been amazing.”

Trevino said the program has received tremendous support from the business community. “For the first time, we have broken down the walls of silence between industry and education and we are developing partnerships that we know will not only benefit our students, but benefit the business industry as well,” she says. As the program grows, Calumet High School is establishing a Parent/Community Voice organization to create even stronger partnerships between the school and community. She thinks the greatest satisfaction of the program is seeing the transformation of students into highly skilled 21st Century young adults.