News and Tribune

Education/Schools

June 11, 2014

The lowdown on New Tech in Clarksville

Local principal rebuts the wrong ideas

CLARKSVILLE — Misconceptions about Renaissance Academy, Clarksville Community Schools’ New Tech school, haven’t stopped circulating since district officials premiered the idea locally about two years ago.

But Brian Allred, director of the school, said he’s got the answers to some of the bigger ones: It’s not a charter school; it doesn’t charge tuition; and it’s not a vocational school.

“It’s this whole idea of working together, being very transparent in that process and that’s something we really took with us from [the Columbus Signature Academy, which is a fellow New Tech school],” Allred said. “We also noted that in other New Techs.”

The high school will make the fourth campus in the district. But as a member of the New Tech Network — a national organization — Renaissance Academy will make the 32nd New Tech school in the state.

The concept of the model began with the opening of the Napa New Tech High School in 1996 in California. According to the network’s report on Indiana, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a five-year grant to the school to spread its model elsewhere.

The first three New Tech Schools in Indiana opened in the 2007-08 school year in the Rochester Community School Corp., Indianapolis Public Schools and the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township.

Krista Clark, director of communications for the New Tech Network, said Indiana has the highest concentration of New Tech schools in the country. She said part of that gets back to the foundation of the Center for Excellence in Leadership and Learning, or CELL, out of the University of Indianapolis.

“There are multiple things at play that have helped Indiana grow rapidly,” Clark said. “[CELL] really worked to help relax some of the rules governing schools so folks could use money in a different way to support innovative measures.”

Schools like the Columbus Signature Academy tend to serve their students as a magnet program, meaning they claim a different home school within their school district.

Bill Jensen, director of secondary education in Bartholomew County Schools, said because CSA falls in that category, it’s difficult to disaggregate state assessment data on how CSA students perform on End of Course Assessments.

But national and state data suggests students in New Tech schools graduate at higher rates. In Indiana, 6 percent more students graduate high school from New Tech models as opposed to traditional high schools.

Allred said Renaissance Academy will probably operate in the same manner, but magnet programs also give New Tech students another advantage — they can still participate in athletic and other extracurricular activities at their home schools.

Sarah Hess, a parent of two students in Bartholomew County New Tech schools, said with her oldest son, Shafer, they kept their eye on getting him into CSA even as he was leaving elementary school.

Enrollment for Renaissance Academy continues to hover around 50 students. Applications are available online at www.renaissanceacademyin.com/application. Applicants must print out the form after filling it out and either mail it in or turn it into the Clarksville Community Schools administration building at 200 Ettel Lane, Clarksville, IN, 47129.

The district will accept applications until July 30, the day before the 2014-15 school year begins.

Hess said for parents who are still making up their minds about the idea, they should try it and see how it works for their kids.

“I would say definitely give it a shot because you never know what’s going to really ignite and engage a child’s passion,” Hess said. “But it’s also been great having them be more in a setting they’re going to encounter in the real world, working with groups of people, giving presentations, using technology.

“I think it’s extremely beneficial for the kids.”

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