Marked Tree High School to join new tech network

MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – The Marked Tree High School was awarded a grant worth $150,000 earlier this year to participate in the New Tech Network, which claims to be a "non-profit organization that works with school districts and communities to implement innovative public high schools." According to Matt Wright, principal at Marked Tree High School, the changes will begin next fall.

"The focus will be placed on skills, providing kids with skills needed to succeed in life," said Wright.

Wright said kids grades 7-12 will start using hands-on projects to learn instead of students studying words in a book. He also said each student will use technology to further encourage success.

"We will be working with teachers co-teaching. Like I may be paired with science, so we will incorporate both of those subjects together and we will have more real world problems," said Lisa Gray, a teacher as assistant principal at Marked Tree High School. "A lot of problem projects. The kids will be given an entry document that will tell them what project they will do. For instance, in math it could be running pipes or figuring out pipelines."

Wright said his school is using a model largely based on one the Cross County School District adopted. He said the effort is to provide one-on-one education ahead of the Common Core.

To read about the Common Core, click here.

Gray said her job will change, along with the parent's role in the educational process.

"The teacher will be assisting and asking them leading questions, helping them do research, but the teachers will no longer be giving them the answers," said Gray. "It will be a challenge because they're used to the kids coming home with a book and doing homework problems and helping them, and it's just going to be completely different."

Gray said children are excited about the upcoming school year and nervous.

"They are afraid it'll be more difficult and it will because they will be in charge with their own learning instead of expecting answers from the teachers all the time," said Gray.

Gray said each student will receive laptop computers next year to use in the classroom and take home. She said the guidelines are still being worked out.

"We're trying to prepare them for college because a lot of our kids get into college and they're used to having that teacher pushing them, and in college, they've got to learn how to be more independent," said Gray. "We have quite a few that enter into college, but we don't have a lot that stay because we feel like, you know, here, if they're not doing well, we require them to do tutoring. It's mandatory. They don't have a choice, and they get in college and they don't learn to create small groups for study, and they get lonely and they're used to the small environment and they go somewhere that's larger and they don't succeed once they get there."

New Tech Network currently serves 120 schools across the country, according to their web-site. The schools in Arkansas include Arkadelphia, Cross County, Dumas, El Dorado, Highland, Hope Academy of Science and Technology, Lincoln, Marked Tree, Riverview and Van Buren.

"We're working with the students first and we're hoping the students will go home and talk to the parents and then we're going to have some parent meetings," said Gray.

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