The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Aug. 8, 2022

VWCS gets New Tech High School grant

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Schools will begin the process of creating a New Tech High School program after receiving a $750,000 grant through the federal Race to the Top program. The district was one of only five in Ohio awarded the grant.

A lot more tech-oriented education will take place at Van Wert City Schools when the New Tech High School program gets underway. (VW independent file photo)

“We’re very excited,” said Superintendent Ken Amstutz, adding that the new program would tie directly into what the district has been doing the past few years in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

The superintendent said the new program would provide many more cross-curriculum learning opportunities, while also serving a segment of the student population that doesn’t do as well with traditional education.

Amstutz said the grant would be distributed over a three-year period — $250,000 a year — with about half earmarked for training and the other half used for technology purposes each year.

Teachers and administrators participating in the program will undergo training in the coming year, with planning for the new program also taking place in the 2011-2012 school year. Implementation of the program is planned for the 2012-2013 school year.

Proponents of New Tech education call it an “education revolution,” noting that it provides new ways of learning … and teaching.

Although each program has its unique components, the program focus is project-based education. Students participating in New Tech programs work in groups, engaged in projects that encompass multiple areas of learning.

High school science teacher Chuck Rollins said he feels the program will be very positive for Van Wert City Schools.

“I have not been this excited about education in a while,” Rollins said. “We’ve seen a lot of trends come through in education, but this is more than a trend, this is a completely new way to look at educating kids.

“The cool thing about new tech and project-based learning is it works on developing real-world skills,” he added. “It’s not about how well can you answer multiple choice questions on a test, the biggest focus of project-based learning is you have to do a project.”

Rollins noted that students who do project-based education have to work with other students, learn how to meet deadlines and produce something real and viable.

“Those are the skills that translate into the workforce: Working with people, communication skills, dividing up chores, working through problems, meeting deadlines,” Rollins said.

State standards will be taught in the program, but just taught differently, he noted, with nearly all classroom work done using computers and other technology.

Both Amstutz and Rollins said the New Tech High School program is a perfect tie-in with the district’s STEM programming, which includes the Project Lead the Way engineering courses and the new biomedical program that will begin this coming school year.

Rollins, who will teach the biomedical classes, said the grant would enable the district — which already is working on STEM education — to do some things it would not be able to do otherwise.

Amstutz said he feels approximately 140 students could be involved in the program by the time it’s fully operational, noting that the district will continue to offer traditional programs for those students who do well in those programs.

“We feel there’s a place for traditional education, we just want to carve out something different for what we’re doing for a segment of kids, offer them a second opportunity,” the superintendent said, stressing that the program would be implemented in the current high school building.

Rollins said he was initially opposed to the program, but got interested as he heard more about the program.

“This is a radically different style of teaching,” he noted, adding that some teachers may not want to participate.

That’s not Rollins’ worry, though. “I am excited about teaching in Van Wert as I have ever been,” he said, noting that he feels the program would likely also result in higher test scores for those students who participate.

For Amstutz, the New Tech grant is an important step in transitioning the district to meet the future needs of local students, and an affirmation of the improvements already being made in the district.

“I believe that this school district is beginning to turn the corner, and making great strides in what we are doing academically, what we’re offering programwise,” he said. “Innovation is taking place, and I think that, when it comes to the local report card, we’re making great strides there as well.”

POSTED: 06/30/11 at 5:35 am. FILED UNDER: News