If Highland is accepted through the letter of intent which it submitted, it will be only the third school in the state to participate in this revolutionary new approach to learning. New Tech schools utilize technology and teamwork, rather than traditional text book based learning.
Highland would join Cross County and Lincoln schools which began the process during the 2011-12 school year.
Sharon Oldam, director of You Tech High and a long time educator, explained the process uses unique approaches, incorporating changes from the administration all the way down to the students.
Oldam said the Highland group was the largest she has seen at any of the informational meetings. She pointed out that the grant opportunities provided by Governor Beebe's initiative would not cover the entire cost, but would allow for seed money for the school to incorporate the process into its learning environment, which will encompass the entire community with non traditional teaching methods, such as job shadowing, group projects and team oriented goals.
While students will still be required to complete the regular frame work required by the Board of Education and will also participate in state testing, You Tech High provides a strong technological base for each student to have a computer, and integrate learning into technology, far more than the computer lab environment provides.
Oldham said there are currently 87 types of Tech high schools across 16 different states. Through the governor's initiative, 20 new schools are anticipated during the 2012-2013 year, with the majority being in Arkansas.
Also speaking to the group was Kristin Suella, who worked in Florida as a high school teacher and principal in a tech school that had a large dropout problem.
She said the process empowers faculty and students, and revitalizes the culture of the school by teaching such things as trust, respect and accountability.
By allowing students to take part in community based learning projects, the relationship changes between the teacher and the student.
She said in a typical New Tech school there is no teacher at the front of the room, but, more likely, groups working together with a teacher, providing a more teamwork oriented environment, which is more indicative of what students will actually encounter in college and during their careers.
By receiving both individual and team based grades, students learn responsibility and the importance of working together, above and beyond the traditional textbook-based learning environment that has been the norm for generations.
Suella also explained the implementation of the New Tech school is a process that takes several years as, normally, one to two grade levels are introduced per school year.
Highland has completed two steps of the application process, including sending in its letter of intent to participate in the program.
The representatives were visiting as part of their initial readiness visit.
The group will make a recommendation to the governor's board for approval.