posted by: acarr
Last Thursday, I went to a meeting for the Community Education Impact Committee (convened by United Way of St. Joseph County). The meeting included a presentation on South Bend New Tech High School (SBNTH), opening this fall. The presentation was given by John Kennedy, the principal of SBNTH. The following is a brief summary of what I learned.
SBNTH is part of the New Tech Network, which includes 62 schools in 14 states. Sixteen of those schools are in Indiana, currently operating in their 1st to 3rd year. The first New Tech school in the country was established in 1996 in Napa, California. The New Tech model offers a fundamental change in learning and instruction, as well as a change in pedagogy and culture. This model differs from the traditional teaching method in which instruction is based on textbook content.
At New Tech schools, the student-centered classroom incorporates project-based learning with daily use of technology tools and focuses on 21st century skills needed for the upcoming workforce in our changing world. There is also a culture implemented with a high expectation that students learn in an environment with trust, respect and responsibiltity (i.e., working with their peers in group projects, respecting individual property, effectively resolving communication conflicts, etc). In this classroom, students are the center of attention (i.e., teacher instruction, guidance and mentoring), and become more engaged in project activities.
SBNTH will only enroll 100 students this fall, residing in a wing of Riley High School during the first year. In upcoming years, the 100 limit will still apply, with only 400 students maximum occupancy in the school after 4 years. Deadline for this year application is March 1. There are no academic requirements.
After Mr. Kennedy’s presentation, attendees at the CEIC meeting brought up some concerns about SBNTH.
How will teachers be selected and trained? A detailed job description with unique characteristics highlighted has been provided for the applicants, so they will know the expectations. If hired, ongoing training will be offered throughout the year.
Is there funding to sustain the school? The South Bend Community School Corporation has made a commitment to the school, and there are efforts underway in securing grants and making community partnerships. Also, because SBNTH is part of New Tech Network, Mr. Kennedy expects to be guided in the right direction by the network to be successfully sustained (i.e., guidance on funding opportunities). He also stated that some of the budget is within the per student amount from the state of Indiana.
How will SBNTH address the education problems in this community? Because there has been positive results around the country with New Tech schools (i.e., student performance and attendance, college entry), Mr. Kennedy said we should also expect positive outcomes. Also, SBNTH will serve a diverse group of learners, and will target the drop-out rate because students who are not highly involved in their current classroom environment could become more engaged at SBNTH with a different teaching approach.
As stated earlier, the presentation for SBNTH was at the CEIC-United Way meeting. The agenda for CEIC did not originate out of St. Joseph County, but was initiated at the annual United Way meeting that called for United Way chapters to focus on the current education crisis nationwide. The CEIC at St. Joe just passed their one year anniversary this February.
The committee is following a “roadmap to success” that comprises five target areas: school readiness, fourth grade reading level comprehension, middle school success, high school graduation and the transition to college or vocation school. The simple goal is that every child in the community will have an opportunity to succeed. The CEIC has hopes of convening with major monetary funders in the early development of their initiatives (i.e., schools, programs.) This method is to address the problem of starting initiatives without funding to sustain them. The CEIC is discussing SBNTH as a potential alternative school that addresses the community’s education concerns.