New Tech high schools are booming in Northeast Indiana. The specialty high schools cater their curriculum to the needs of the community.
Since Northeast Indiana is known for its defense and manufacturing industries, in order to retain those industries, these schools have found a way to keep young talent by teaching skills that will create opportunities and career advancement within the community.
“That’s what we’re facing with public education. The world is changing and we’re not keeping up with it," said Liz Bryan, the Director of New Tech Academy at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne.
And so enters the new world of new tech high schools.
Having been around for almost two decades, the concept of a new tech high school isn’t exactly “new”.
But in 2006, a federal grant allowed for the development of six new tech high schools, and two middle schools in Northeast Indiana.
“Northeast Indiana in having our six New Tech high schools and two New Tech middle schools, actually has one of if not the largest concentration of these schools in the nation, or in the world, frankly," said Ryan Twiss the Director of Big Goal Collaborative with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership,
The schools are called "new tech"—meaning they place an emphasis on STEM curriculum: science, technology, engineering and math.
“Really what it’s about is instilling students with the 21st Century skills employees are looking for. So rather than doing worksheets and taking tests, they work through a project to try and solve a real life problem," said Twiss.
Those 21st century skills are: problem solving, communication, analytical thinking, and team work.
“We really teach how does that apply to you in your everyday life, and how you’ll use that outside of our doors," said Bryan.
Bryan is the Director of New Tech Academy at Wayne High School—the first to open in the region. She says new techs are about changing the face of public education.
“We have some great things in place, but the instruction has to adapt to what the kids are facing in the real world. We have to use technology as a tool. We have to make sure that kids find relevancy in what they’re learning," said Bryan.
That applies to the students’ daily structure where they work in teams on numerous projects, instead of individually.
“I wouldn’t be as open and outgoing," said Terrence Caldwell a Junior at New Tech Academy.
“It’s like we’re one big family,” said Tristan Byall a Senior at New Tech.
Although it is its own entity, new tech academy is housed in Wayne High School, which allows students to participate in traditional high school activities.
One of those students is Terrence Caldwell who plays for Wayne’s basketball team. When he graduates next year he plans to study law.
“If it wasn’t for New Tech I don’t think I would’ve found it as interesting as I do now," said Terrence.
Terrence credits new tech’s professional partnerships for exposing him to life at a downtown law firm. “I went down there and talked to a lady and she talked about how her daily schedule goes, and what happens with her life and everything. I found it so interesting that I just really wanted to do it.”
New tech also partners with Ivy Tech Community College by offering dual-credit courses.
Tristan takes advantage of the program by attending classes at Ivy Tech in the mornings, and New Tech in the afternoons. After graduation, he plans to attend Purdue, become an engineer and join the Air Force Academy.
“I’ve been approached and recommended for an internship at BAE Systems. I think I just showed that I was proficient in the science and math segments of my learning. I don’t think I’d have that at a traditional high school, so it’s definitely a nice thing," said Tristan.
Not only do Terrence and Tristan praise New Tech for better preparing them for college, but also for preparing them to lead better lives.
“You build lifelong bonds and relationships with people. You make lifelong friends," said Terrence. "Somewhere down the road you might need a job and your friend from high school might be an employer, so they can help you out."
“If there’s a place where you want to be considered an actual person and not just a number, then New Tech in Wayne is really stepping its game up," said Tristan.