Urban School Defies Odds to Find Education Success
An urban high school in a struggling district. Probably has a high dropout rate and low achievement scores, right? Wrong. When it comes to New Tech High @ Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis, the school has beaten the odds to overcome countless social and financial barriers to find success with its 2011 graduating class.
New Tech High @ Arsenal Tech opened in the fall of 2007 as one of Indiana’s first three New Tech High Schools. The school began with freshmen and a small group of sophomores. The first complete class of graduates, including many who attended New Tech High School @ Arsenal Tech for all four years, walked across the stage last May. While the school’s leaders had high hopes for New Tech, the graduation statistics provided some important validation for the model.
New Tech High @ Arsenal Tech graduated 75 percent of its seniors, surpassing the graduation average for the Indianapolis Public Schools district by more than 20 percent. About 70 percent of the graduates were accepted into two- or four-year higher education institutions. All but two graduates were first-generation college-goers.
Scott DeFreese, New Tech High @ Arsenal Tech director, knows well the benefits New Tech provides students.
“I’ve learned that New Tech can be a very valuable model if implemented right. It adds an element of relevancy to what students experience after they leave here and enter the professional world that they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” DeFreese said.
Similar to other New Techs, Arsenal places a strong emphasis on developing professional skills such as public speaking, critical thinking and collaboration. The school emphasizes a culture that places students in a professional setting rather than simply a traditional classroom.
The transition to a professional culture paid off—student attendance, engagement and achievement is higher than traditional schools in IPS.
Joseph Crandal, 2011 valedictorian of New Tech High @ Arsenal Tech, not only outperformed his New Tech peers, but also graduated as the top student for the entire Arsenal Tech High School campus of more than 2,200 students. He graduated with a 4.13 grade point average and completed 15 credits from IUPUI and three Advanced Placement courses while in high school. His hard work earned him a full scholarship to Purdue University.
While Crandal is an outstanding success story, he is just one of many for New Tech @ Arsenal Tech.
“Students know how they are expected to perform, and you can tell that they thrive in this type of fast-paced environment,” said Andrew Ringham, New Tech @ Arsenal teacher.
The accolades for New Tech @ Arsenal don’t just end in Indiana. In July, the school caught the national spotlight at the New Tech Annual Conference when it received the first-ever Chad P. Wick Award for Social Justice. The award recognized the school’s outstanding accomplishments in serving an underprivileged, urban student population.
“It’s nice to be recognized and put Indiana in the spotlight,” said DeFreese. “We’ve always had bright kids; they just might not have been able to learn in a traditional way.”
New Tech High @ Arsenal serves as a model for creating a dynamic school culture that engages everyone—students, staff and the community—in the power of innovative teaching and learning.
“It’s one thing to go along with New Tech and improve specific areas in a school. It’s another thing to have everyone, from the students and staff, buy into the model and discover its potential,” said DeFreese. “We now know that New Tech changes lives.”
Published: October 2011