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Hillside New Tech to become showcase of teaching, learning

December 19, 2008 - Durham's Hillside New Tech High School will be one of four innovative high schools in North Carolina to receive significant support to allow the school to showcase teaching and learning that ensures all students graduate ready for college, careers and life.

Hillside New Tech was selected by the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP) and the University of North Carolina system to be part of the Learning Laboratory Initiative, a $2.5-million effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of innovative high schools that can demonstrate rigorous, highly effective instruction and deep student engagement to educators, university faculty and policymakers.

The Durham school board on Thursday approved a partnership with NCNSP and UNC to transform Hillside New Tech into a national model of performance and to begin to host visits to the school by practitioners and others beginning in 2011.  Negotiations are being completed with the school districts of the remaining three Learning Lab schools.

"We are excited to partner with the New Schools Project and UNC to create a school from which educators in our school system and across the state can draw knowledge and inspiration," said Durham Superintendent Carl Harris.  "We know that Hillside New Tech is well on its way in delivering on the promise to prepare all students for good jobs and citizenship in this century."

Hillside New Tech and the other three Learning Lab sites were picked from among 21 schools through a process that involved proposals by each, analysis of the schools' student performance and teacher perceptions, and visits to the finalist schools.  The selection process involved a panel of experts in high school innovation from outside North Carolina.

The four schools - which include two sites at which traditional high schools are being redesigned and two Learn and Earn early college high schools - were found to be the most ready to accelerate the innovative work they have begun and to hold great promise to grow into models for the state.  Through the initiative, the four schools will receive enhanced coaching and support from NCNSP, a UNC institution linked to each, and the California-based New Technology Foundation over the next three years.  Hillside is among nine schools in North Carolina using the New Tech model based on one-to-one computer-to-student classrooms; a student-centered, project-based learning approach; and integration of course content and 21st century skills into a cohesive whole.

Since 2003, part of NCNSP's work to establish more than 100 innovative high schools across the state has been to take more than 700 teachers, principals and education policymakers on "study visits" in seven states to well-established innovative high schools that have a track record of graduating all students ready for college, careers and life.

"Through those visits, long-held beliefs about what students can do - and which students can do it - have been reshaped, practical solutions have been conveyed, and the value of teachers watching peers teach has been reaffirmed," said NCNSP President Tony Habit.  "The rapid development of the Learning Lab schools will allow that change to happen more frequently and more regularly for educators in the field or in training, for the university faculty who train them, and for North Carolina's leaders."

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