New Tech report card: thriving

April 5th, 2014

News Coverage:

New Tech report card: thriving

Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 11:00 pm | Updated: 11:38 am, Sat Apr 5, 2014.

WATERLOO — DeKalb New Tech School, a project-based learning environment launched at DeKalb High School in the fall of 2012 with a freshman class of 118 students, is thriving in its second year, school officials say.

The “school within a school” has grown to 200 freshmen and sophomore students and is on track to have an estimated enrollment of 350-400 students in grades 9-12 by the fall of school year 2015-2016.

Elements of project-based learning now are being rolled out into the curriculum of each of the district’s four elementary schools and DeKalb Middle School. Waterloo Elementary is transitioning to a “whole-school” project-based learning elementary school. Elements of project-based learning also are being implemented at James R. Watson Elementary School, McKenney-Harrison Elementary School and Country Meadow Elementary School.

DeKalb Middle School will have a project-based learning pathway, as well as elements of project based learning in a second pathway that will be based on a teaching curriculum approach similar to the past.

Matt Toth is principal at DeKalb New Tech.

“Our first year met and exceeded our expectations,” said Toth. “During our first year, the New Tech Network chose DeKalb New Tech as a year-one school to highlight for the Network’s ‘Leadership Residency,’ a convening of directors from across the nation that are launching New Tech Schools.”

The New Tech Network is a non-profit organization that has consulted with the implementation of more than 100 public schools across the country. The curriculum is graded using the same grading system as in all of the district’s schools. New Tech students also are graded on oral communication and presentation, written communication, collaboration and teamwork and work ethic and effort.

“Over the past three years I have worked to implement the New Tech School model with fidelity,” said Toth. “We are well-poised to add the third class of freshmen next fall, increasing the enrollment at DNT to approximately 300 students.”

“We are excited to report that our New Tech School is right on track with our strategic initiative to integrate (project-based learning) into DeKalb Central Schools,” said Superintendent Sherry Grate. “Matt Toth has worked tirelessly, along with his team of facilitators, in establishing the DeKalb New Tech School.”

Toth now is working with DeKalb Middle School Associate principal Matt Vince, where a project-based learning pathway called “Fusion” is in the early stage of being launched for seventh- and eighth-graders. Sixth-graders transitioning into DeKalb Middle School from the District’s elementary schools will have a year to determine whether they will pursue “Fusion” or a “Legacy” pathway, which includes some elements of project-based learning, but follows classroom instruction similar to students at DeKalb High School that are not enrolled in the New Tech School.

“We have fantastic students and culture built within DeKalb New Tech,” said Toth. “Over the past two years we have built tremendous partnerships with various businesses and community members throughout DeKalb County.”

Students have accomplished various assignments, including a logo design for a local business, raising money through a 5K run for the Downtown Auburn Business Association and helping create works of art for DeKalb Health and local businesses.

“Our goal for the students in DeKalb New Tech is to ensure that they are prepared for life outside of high school,” Toth said. “We are looking forward to our first New Tech graduating class. They will have tremendous skills and talents to offer future universities and employers alike.”