The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, May 17, 2022 1:00 am

New FWCS programs to focus on 'real world'

Superintendent outlines ideas to Rotary club


Summer vacation hasn't started, but Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Mark Daniel already is thinking about new programs in the upcoming school year.

He let downtown Fort Wayne Rotary Club members in on some of them Monday during their weekly lunchtime meeting at Parkview Field. The event was attended by about 80 people, with others attending virtually.

If the new programming has one theme, it's to bring “the real world into our classrooms,” he said. “We want to educate all students to high standards,” so they not only learn how to learn but also to get on a path to “a livable wage.”

And progress to those goals has to start early, he said.

That's one reason prekindergarten programming will expand to four additional schools in the fall.

Stressing that Indiana is one of only four states that does not fund pre-K for 4-year-olds, Daniel said he'd love to see it get money from the state.

“Wouldn't that be wonderful?” he said.

A program starting this fall with students from Snider and North Side high schools will be a partnership with a local chapter of Junior Achievement.

The plan has been called “a cure for the common classroom,” Daniel said, because it aims to take high schools from a model of dispensing knowledge to one that involves students in solving real-world problems. That should make what students learn more relevant.

Daniel said the plan aims to reach “the forgotten 50” – the 50% of students slipping through cracks.

The superintendent also pointed to the Amp Lab, which is to start in August. It will be housed in a rejuvenated building on the Electric Works campus, formerly General Electric.

Four hundred slots for 11th and 12th grade students were planned, and all of them were filled, Daniel said.

Students will be divided into diverse cohorts and given a real-world problem to solve. The program will culminate in a needed product or service and perhaps a product launch, he said.

Also ramping up this year will be programming by the Jim Kelley Pathway Center in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne.

Aimed at eighth graders, the idea is to expose students to skilled trades and advanced manufacturing. The aim is to provide some kind of exposure to work students have an interest in as well as a credential connected to a career goal, Daniel said.

Ultimately, he said, school programming is being based on finding out what the Fort Wayne community needs in terms of “the ideal graduate” of FWCS – and reverse engineering it.

Part of that might be one-on-one tutoring for part of the summer for students who need it. Another aspect could be adults who continue to mentor students even after they graduate.

School “needs to be more interactive,” Daniel said, “and it truly needs to be more engaging.”

He added: “We have to do something different from the same industrial format we've been using since the 1920s.”

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