Where student work is merit-based, too

Underperforming team members get fired and all work is done on websites and PowerPoint presentations at California, Indiana schools.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

In a model that blurs the boundaries between business office and school classroom, some Indiana high schools are using non-traditional techniques in order to engage students, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Six new districts are slated to open New Technology high schools over the next two years. The high schools will use computers for all assignments including websites, presentations and computer models. The students work in teams and if one of their team members isn't pulling their weight, they can fire them.

"This school is what every young person needs to be able to survive in the new, 21st century," said Nancy Sutton, senior fellow at the University of Indianapolis' Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning, which has helped coordinate the arrival of New Tech in Indiana.

These high schools are modeled after a similar program in Napa, CA. Some programs have been adapted to appeal to under-performing students while others will be instituted for the whole student body.

"There's lots of activity -- kids are not just sitting in rows of desks," said Susan Schilling, chief executive officer of the
New Technology Foundation
, which oversees the replication of the schools nationwide. "There are groups clustered around computer desks and teachers circulating around the room."

But critics say that the programs cost too much and are elitist.

"You shouldn't group kids together like this," said Rochester parent Jeff Foust, 43, a farmer who is concerned his children will fall behind as they try to help less-motivated students in their groups.

"You should adapt to how all kids learn best instead of a mentality that benefits most students."

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