William J. Dean Technical High School, a GRAD Academy, has opened the 2014-15 school year as the first fully dedicated career technical high school to operate under the New Tech Network model and the first New Tech Network high school of any kind in Massachusetts. More than a full year of preparation went into the transformation of Dean, which now uses project-based learning in a high tech context as the foundation of the classroom experience for its 9th and 10th grade students in this first year of implementation.
All GRAD Academy high schools, including Dean, are members of the New Tech Network. GRAD Academies deploy the NTN model with additional supports and programs unique to GRAD, including real-time data assessment, high tech learning innovations, college and career readiness and a focus on developing a variety of value-added community partnerships that substantially enrich student experiences.
Barry Bacom, Principal of Dean Tech, was an initial co-designer of the GRAD Academy model while he was working as a New Tech Network Director Akins New Technical High School in Austin, Texas. About the New Tech transformation of Dean, Barry shared, “I am excited to take the work I’ve done with New Tech and apply it to a new context at a turnaround school like Dean Tech. I think that New Tech is a great fit for Dean Tech as a technical vocation school as students are learning life skills that all 21st-century students need.”
“We have been impressed by the Dean Technical team throughout the exploration and planning process, said Tim Presiado, Chief Operating Officer of the New Tech Network. “Through their visits to other Network schools, they were able to develop a very thoughtful design for their school that connects the Career and Technical resources at their disposal to an engaging set of course offerings and programs. While CT has always ‘done projects’, the shift has been toward full PBL implementation, using the language and process that they now share with the the core classes. We are excited to support their team in the coming year and deepen our partnership with Project GRAD USA through our work in Holyoke.”
The New Tech model has been gradually introduced to Dean Tech over the past year. 9th and 10th grade students were given two weeks to become familiar with the new structure of their school, and the teachers began their New Tech training last year, attending conferences that prepared them for leading a classroom under the New Tech model. Over the next two years, as the New Tech model is rolled out to all four grades at Dean Tech, all teachers will be fully trained in the New Tech model. “The 9th and 10th graders are really the vanguard of the implementation of this model,” Bacom shared.
“Adopting the New Tech model at Dean opens the door for a powerful integration of the core academic disciplines, the career and technical fields, and the arts — this is a direction that many have begun to talk about, but very few, if any, have really pursued,” said Dr. Marcy Singer-Gabella, Chief Academic Officer of Project GRAD USA. “Because New Tech organizes learning around complex and messy real-world problems, it positions students to become problem solvers and designers for the 21st century.”
Every student in a New Tech classroom has a dedicated computer so that they can learn technical skills and have access to learning and development resources necessary to succeed in the 21st century. Dean’s partnerships with organizations such as Holyoke Community College and the Massachusetts Green High Performing Computer Center (MAGHPCC) have brought sophisticated tech tools needed for students’ success and have helped build bridges between GRAD and the community. These partnerships have enabled the creation of the new CISCO Academy, introduced last year, and other learning labs at Dean, helping to reinvent what Dean Tech looks and feels like and pointing the way toward a bright, innovative future at Dean.