Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 1, 2012

Inside Taylor’s New Tech

Students talk about the sometimes bumpy transition

Taylor High School sophomore Caleb Maple claims he can sell a shoe to anyone — a skill he picked up in class, he said.

“That’s what we have to do here at school,” he said. “We have to sell our projects to get a good grade.”

Taylor is wrapping up year two of its four-year conversion to a New Tech high school, and Maple, for one, is on board with its project-based teaching methods.

Students in the New Tech high school are not just assessed on their content knowledge in a subject. They also are graded on their professionalism, critical thinking skills, ability to collaborate, oral and written presentation skills and technology proficiency.

At any given time, teachers or even visitors can walk into a classroom and ask students what they’re working on and why, and the kids are expected to provide an explanation.

Maple said he’s already found a real-world use for this skill. He works part-time as a salesman at Shoe Carnival, and he routinely beats his co-workers in sales.

Anyone can tell a customer a shoe is good. The key, he said, is being able to explain why they should buy it.

“I have to be able to talk to anyone and everyone,” he said. “This school has helped me.”

But not everyone feels the same way.

Maple said there is a segment of the student population calling for Taylor to return to traditional teaching methods, as evidenced by a flier hanging in the global studies class.

Students there were asked to create a propaganda campaign for an issue they felt strongly about.

One student’s flier read, “Why suffer.” It showed a picture of Taylor’s New Tech crossed out.

“Some students are quiet, and they learn better on their own,” Maple said. “This is hard for them. We’re looking at that issue.”

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