Lakeshore News Tonight

State Education Leaders Take A Lesson From Hammond Students

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November 21, 2013 — Learning is a little different at Hammond Academy of Science and Technology.  That’s because its vision of a quality education means thinking outside of the box.

School Leader and Principal Sean Egan said students use devices and research-based instruction that will prepare them for college and the workplace.

“We have put together some very simple concepts and made them work and our results are phenomenal,” Egan said.

Members of the State Board of Education paid a visit to the school.  Recently appointed At-Large Member Gordon Hendry included hast in his month-long educational listening tour as part of his pledge to meet with his colleagues and the schools in their districts across the state.

“The way the students are engaging with each other on projects, I saw one seventh grader who was building, out of balsa wood, a building that would be tested on a little earthquake test.  That’s a seventh grader who is not just learning how to do something, but actually implementing it and doing it himself,” Hendry said.

First Congressional District Board Member Tony Walker joined Hendry on the tour of the school in this region.

“Education varies across the state.  Many regions are dealing with different economic issues, different socioeconomic issues.  So, it’s important that the board members get a good overview of how things may in application be different in certain regions of the state,” said Walker.

Walker said HAST received a low letter grade when the A-F grading took place last school year.  But he said it didn’t represent what is going on within the walls of the new tech institution.  He said that’s because project-based and interdisciplinary learning is the future.

“I was very happy to come here.  We have since addressed that issue.  Unfortunately, it is not going to take effect for another year.  I was pleased to find what I personally feel is one of the best schools in my region,” said Walker.

Egan is seeing success with the formula used at HAST from college acceptance letters to well-behaved students, both of which can be hard to achieve with inner-city kids.

Egan said, “We’ve got minimal discipline issues for the most part.  We have a large percentage of students on the honor roll.  45% of your students made the A-B Honor Roll.  We don’t have large attendance issues.  We don’t have large mobility issues.”

While Egan feels hast is leading the way in education reform, he feels the work is not easy.

“It is a challenge and a joy every day.  We have the first graduating class this year.  There’s always a first here, so that’s part of the challenges.  Just knowing that every day there’s going to be something that’s the first time.  The joy is the fact that my community is so wonderful to work with.  The parents, the staff, the students.”

Hendry hopes to improve the education and business climate in the state.

“I very much view education as critical to building the best workforce here in the state of Indiana that’s going to attract great companies here to our state.”

Hendry and Walker continued their tour in Michigan City.

By Renetta DuBose

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