Saying that Superintendent Mark Daniel sees potential in 3DE, a program he wants to bring to the city's high schools, is an understatement.
“This could be a game-changer for us in Fort Wayne Community Schools,” Daniel told the school board Monday during a work session.
Lena Yarian, president of Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, agreed.
“Honestly, I think this is going to be regionally transformational,” she told the board. “I think the employers are going to be so excited with the partnership and the deep collaboration this brings. ... And I think it will also draw students to want to come to FWCS because you have this program.”
Launched six years ago in Atlanta, 3DE was developed by Fulton County Schools, Junior Achievement of Georgia and the business community. It has since grown to 28 schools in multiple states, including Kentucky.
At FWCS, 3DE would start at Snider and North Side, Daniel said.
Jack Harris, 3DE president and CEO, joined the board meeting via video conference to explain the basics.
Generally, he said, students in grades nine through 11 are given a real-world business problem written by a local or national business partner every five weeks. Students work in small groups to research and analyze the challenge and present their solution to the company.
Using this learning method makes lessons more relevant and engaging for students, officials said.
Yarian provided this hypothetical example: Sweetwater wants a new distribution center in Thailand, Britain or Sweden. Students would evaluate the countries' potential based on factors such as their social and political environment and distribution costs, she said.
“Every subject matter has a piece of the pie,” Yarian said.
Students in 12th grade get an experience akin to an internship, Harris said.
Daniel compared the 3DE model to New Tech Academy at Wayne High School. New Tech is centered on project-based learning.
It's difficult to scale New Tech to all FWCS high schools, Daniel said.
“I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to bring that ability to your traditional high schools,” he said. “That's what this is about.”
Board members expressed interest in the program, but they seemed to have more questions than the hour allowed. Their concerns addressed 3DE's relationship to existing programs, student preferences and buy-in from teachers and administrators.
Steve Corona, a board member who participated from vacation via video conference, said he would like to see a 3DE school to better understand how it works.
“I get a sense that what we're talking about is trying to make high school education more relevant and experiential,” Corona said. “I like that, but I'm still struggling about all this other stuff.”