How Does New Tech Measure Up to Traditional Standards?

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Some might say it's all well and good to teach responsibility and accountability and self-sufficiency, but what about test scores?

At Napa New Tech, the numbers speak for themselves. The school's 2009 API scores was 818. (Napa New Tech is the first school in the New Tech Network, and was opened in 1996.) The average score of all the 62 schools in the New Tech Network for 2008 was 691, and the growth in the score between 2007 and 2008 was 10.75.

"In general, our students do better across the country in humanities, language arts, social studies, and science," said Chris Walsh, director of innovation and design at New Tech Network. "Math is still at average. But in terms of engagement, college attendance, and graduation rates, we're off the charts."

He's right. From the KnowledgeWorks Foundation (which New Tech is a subsidiary of):


Also according to Knowledgeworks:

- 26 of 28 New Tech schools with available data (or 93%) had attendance rates between 90-100% in 2008-09. Almost two-thirds of the New Tech schools had a 0% drop out rate across grades in 2008-09.

- 98% of Napa New Tech graduates surveyed advanced to post-secondary education.

- 40% are in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) career tracks compared with 7% of high school graduates nationwide.

More numbers to take into account, showing that the New Tech model could work in any setting.

- 1/3 of New Tech schools are in rural areas; 1/3 are in suburban; and 1/3 are in urban neighborhoods.

- Half of the students in the network have free and/or reduced lunch.

But even with such promising scores, the whole assessment issue can stand some serious review, Walsh said.

"We're trying to redefine what the definition of a great school is. Not just good test scores or great football teams," he said. "If we had a national assessment around critical thinking, which we unfortunately don’t, you would change the whole dialogue."