The 21st century classroom has emerged as an engaging stage for students immersed in our modern world.
With a new, wired world becoming the norm across the country, a technologically savvy student reflects the innovations surrounding us all. With this mindset, Tech Valley High School now offers opportunities for students to connect with the modern world by offering a new type of learning.
Our first class began in September of 2007, said Tech Valley High School Principal Dan Liebert. The high school, initially established by joint efforts from Capital Region BOCES, Questar III BOCES and local businesses, was about five years in planning before it fully came to fruition.
It offers `project-based learning,` said Liebert, giving students the chance to apply the skills they develop in school directly to real world scenarios. Initiatives such as providing a one-to-one computer ratio and collaborating with local businesses gives Tech Valley High School the ability to stay on the cutting edge of modern needs, he said.
Though there are concerns about the curriculum at Tech Valley High School, the administration maintains that their style of learning prepares children for the 21st century as well as today’s state standards.
`Colleges tell us [they] need people who can collaborate and think critically. Project-based learning is really organizing instruction around New York State standards, but in a practical and applied way,` said Liebert, `Kids at Tech Valley High School have to take and pass regents exams. We teach to the content and learning standards.`
With these notions in mind, many question why students should be sent to Tech Valley High School. Students at the school, who are funded by their parent district’s tax coffers, will each require about $18,000 in tuition for one year of study.
`[This is] an opportunity for districts to innovate. We can share that [with the rest of the community],` said Liebert, `it’s like a research and development arm for districts.`
Regardless, many districts still question how useful Tech Valley High School is.
`The major question is: does Tech Valley High School provide a student experience that is different or beyond that which we offer at the district’s schools,` said Bethlehem Superintendent Les Loomis. `People in the school district, including our staff and board of education, do not have complete information on Tech Valley High School. The board, however, did include a second slot for a freshman at Tech Valley [this year],` he added.
Guilderland Superintendent John McGuire offers a similar outlook. `Our district has been very supportive of Tech Valley. We’ve seen it as a kind of magnet approach in the heart of Tech Valley,` he said.
However, not every district is as supportive, nor can they afford to be. Voorheesville, for example, will not be sending an additional student for the 2008-2009 freshman class. According to Voorheesville Superintendent Linda Langevin, the board’s decision was made with concern for how sending a student will benefit the school and how it can be managed financially.
`Other board members had some concerns; they see it as a rather high expense to be made on one child,` added Jim Coffin, a Voorheesville school board member.
`It’s a good concept. There are other operations like it around the country that generate a lot of enthusiasm, [but] the way the school is being funded needs improvement,` he said.
This has angered some parents. `Voorheesville allowed kids to apply and [at that point] everyone was really excited about it. However, a few meetings ago, it became clear the board wouldn’t fund another student,` said Shari Hoffman-Simsek of Voorheesville, `Smaller districts are not sending students. Are we creating a caste system that excludes smaller districts? They don’t realize the benefits the kids bring back.`