What Summer Really Means for New Tech Network Teachers
We are days away from the New Tech Network (NTN) Annual Conference (NTAC) ─ six days of learning, professional development and collaboration among educators from more than half of the US states and Australia and China. This year in Chicago, we will welcome 2,000 participants for an intensive week of training to launch new schools as well as an extensive array of session tracks focused on the comprehensive redesign of elementary, middle and high schools anchored in three key elements:
- Teaching that engages through Project-Based Learning
- A culture that empowers both students and adults
- A pervasive use of technology that enables teaching and learning
This year the conference theme is: Are They Ready ─ Preparing Students for College, Career and Civic Life. Our passion, and that of our partner districts, is about providing educational experiences that prepare students to be college and career ready ─ it's a dominant theme in education. Our goal in Chicago is to make "college and career ready" concrete and provide specific paths for teachers, principals and district leaders implementing the New Tech school design.
Beginning three years ago, NTN shifted our focus from fidelity to the model to the use of school-wide student learning outcomes as ways to measure growth and success. We believe that an essential ingredient to school innovation is that administrators and classroom educators engage in meaningful inquiry as the path to deeper learning and continuous improvement. We see this as both an individual as well as collective endeavor so that the adults involved in schools model teaching and learning as a lifetime practice rather than a sprint to a finish line.
Our work often centers on supporting teachers to ask "where is the evidence that students are learning?" or "what are the problems that challenge student growth?" Looking intently at identifying problems, developing strategies to address those problems, gathering data and performing analysis together forms a "cycle of inquiry" that is a pathway for continuous learning. Some of the most effective ways to focus on improvement is through looking at student work and use of formative assessments embedded as tasks inside Project-Based Learning. Our formative assessment initiative is called "College Ready Assessments (CRAs)" and here are sneak peeks into how we are furthering this work this summer:
NTAC sessions with titles such as Taking the CRAzy out of CRA ─ which breaks down the process of implementing CRAs across the whole school into manageable pieces so that teachers are not overwhelmed and can enjoy the student success that such a process can bring.
Motorhead and Murder: Scaffolding for CRAs explores and reviews ways we have incorporated Literacy Tasks and CRA prep for argumentative writing in unique and engaging ways. This session teaches skills such as analysis, synthesis and argumentation, while also developing writing skills.
College and Career: Aware, Eligible and Prepared offers participants the opportunity to dive into the College and Career section of the NTN School Success Rubric (SSR) and learn about network thinking and support in this area.
We are extraordinarily fortunate to directly support 180 schools in 28 states that subscribe to the importance of continuous learning as ways to strengthen student success. Our just-released 2015 NTN Data Report shows our schools achieve a higher than national average rate of high school graduation and college enrollment in diverse communities across the country. The report also shows our graduates are persisting in college at rates above the national average.
The strong student performance continues a trend from previous years' outcomes that is noteworthy as the number of NTN schools has expanded to more than 180 public K-12 schools in 30 states and Australia.
NTN provides tools and resources for teachers through the NTN Project and Resource Libraries inside Echo, our proprietary Learning Management System used by each of our schools. We believe that by emphasizing student outcomes to drive professional development we increase the likelihood of supporting all students to be college and career ready. To realize the potential of each and every student, teachers and administrators need opportunities to learn together. Through powerful adult learning, teachers become more skillful at creating authentic learning that is grounded in inquiry, reflection and individual agency for their students.