A Principal’s Perspective: Newport Area Career and Technical Center

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We heard from Rob Young recently the P-TECH High School Director in Newport, Rhode Island, who shared more about their experience in the Fuse Architect project.

“I can speak the language.”

Because I had a role to play in Fuse RI as a Fuse Fellow, this work resonates with me. I have my own vision of how blended learning looks and works in the classroom, kind of the balance of the two. We have a great deal of buy-in from teachers. Some of the teachers didn’t know what they were getting into, whereas some were already doing this on their own. Our teachers are really not afraid to take chances on using the different format, a blended format, in the classroom which is great. There have been some things that they have done that haven’t gone well, but they don’t give up. They come up with a plan to help make it better next time.

“Despite the triumphs so far, there are a couple of obstacles.”

We’re setting norms and expectations together.

During the fall, we were still going over rules and responsibilities and student expectations. We are focused on building norms on behavior in the classroom, in the hallways, in the building in general. The kids are taking part in that conversation to help build and set the rules and expectations.

The classroom set up is different.

We did buy furniture for them that we could wheel around and set up different ways. We’re working with Summit still and are going to continue that relationship. We’re comfortable with Summit. Though it’s not perfect; there isn’t the perfect system out there. We do feel like it does meet our needs. And we’re in year two with it, so the start of the year has been much better than last year. We’re also going to use IXL to help reinforce some of the skills in English and in math.

We had some scheduling issues at the beginning of the year.

That helped to put us back a little bit, but we’ve kind of finally worked through that. There was some external confusion with the main building [Their program is on the campus of Rogers High School] and the scheduler and putting some things together that we had asked for specifically for this project. And eventually, we did get that fixed. However, still, our schedule is kind of holding us back. It’s only a 48-minute fixed period, so I think that does slow us down a little bit. With the blended piece, you only get to rotate maybe once. During the day, the teachers are still kind of getting some comfort level with that, so that may slow things down a little bit too.

We’re meeting with the principal and putting together a scheduling committee and then looking at the needs of both us and the main building. I think we all agree that the seven-period fixed schedule is not the answer. It was kind of a stop gap for this year, but we are looking at other ways to arrange our schedule to make it work. That might be longer periods. We’ll have an answer hopefully mid-year so that we can start prepping for next year.

We’re rethinking our advisory and mentoring time as well.

Advisory had been high cut time for students. Students want it back so that they can have time to meet with their teachers. We do see it coming back next year, but it has to change structurally to be effective. We meet with the students once a week, ideally, for at least ten minutes for mentoring.

They also have a mentor that’s in the industry that they meet through a website that IBM developed, so everything is tracked. Some of the students have mentors who work as state police officers in the cybercrimes division. Some have mentors in Raytheon. We also have mock interviews where local human resources reps will come in and help the students get ready for their future interviews, helping them with understanding how to interview, what to wear in terms of business attire, etc. Students also have a hack competition that they’re preparing for called Cyber Patriot in January.

Our community partner is SENEDIA (South Eastern New England Defense Industry Alliance). SENEDIA works with the Department of Defense, and their part is in the security piece, the cybersecurity part of that. So they’ve partnered with us in P-Tech and, eventually, when our students are ready, they’ll go through SENEDIA to get their internships, and, hopefully, those internships will turn into jobs. But they also help us– they bring guest speakers in, we go and make visits to some of their places. And they’re an industry mentor and partner that is working well.

“I think with the behavioral norms and the student input, the student voice, I think we’ll meet our goals.”

This is only year two for us. I think as P-Tech grows and we have more support that will help us. It can only grow the program even more, especially with invaluable student input.

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Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

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