If you're a blog fan, this page will be the attempt to reflect on the trials and tribulations as we get CDAT off the ground.
This will also feed to Tweet, where you can follow us at #CDATLHS 
Feedback is welcome, I believe in "crowdsourcing".

Awards and Competitions and Next Year

posted Mar 15, 2015, 4:38 AM by Michael Reilly

Spring is traditionally awards and competitions season, the culmination of the year, and this season is no different.  We're so proud of our students and our program in general!

On March 1, we had 15 of our young ladies recognized by the National Center of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Georgia's division for their active participation in technology.  Emily Polanco, a CDAT 11th grade student, was a State winner AND a National runner-up for her tech work and aspirations.  All of the ladies were recognized, had a great banquet, and met folks from great companies such as Home Depot, State Farm, Georgia Tech and more.  They keynote speaker was Kathy Pham, a Georgia Tech grad, Google manager, member of the White House Digital Service Leadership, and an amazing role model for our ladies.

(about 25% of the young ladies pictured are CDAT!!)

We also had a great showing at the County Science Fair, taking home numerous 2nd and 3rd place finishes.  Of course, neither students nor teachers were happy without a first place, so we're going to try and conquer other contests like the Google Science Fair!  Ethan Shaw and Analise Rodriguez were actual presenters at the County Science Fair Symposium, one of only 9 groups chosen and the only 9th graders we've aware of EVER receiving this honor.

Our staff has also been asked to present numerous times, helping others shape PBL environments in their schools.  Mr. Reilly has presented to multiple district leadership meetings on CDAT, PBL and innovation, and a few CDAT teachers are currently planning our summer PBL training where we anticipate up to 700 teachers.

On the planning front, our estimates for the Fall of 2015 are 415 students.  Wow.  A jump of about 100 from this year, and a massive leap from our "CDAT Originals" group of 30 in the Fall of 2010.  As we grow, we hope to continue the feeling of community, the focus on rigorous work, and amazing accomplishments of our students and staff.  

Our kids continue to amaze

posted Dec 6, 2014, 6:07 AM by Michael Reilly

In our last project, we were attempting our first school-wide PBL effort.  It's not just our 300 or so kids, but all 1800 or so, with the entire staff.  But in the midst of supporting a positive school-wide exposure to PBL, we also pushed our kids even further, and they nailed it!

In our Tools for Tomorrow project, we asked the kids for their ideas on what is needed, wanted, necessary.  We really wanted to push that you don't have to have a full-blown, perfect and proven item.  Emphasizing creativity and identification of opportunity were our keys.  Lots of folks said, you mean like "Shark Tank"?  No, because those folks have revenue and product development.  It's more like "KickStarter", where there may or may not be a prototype.

You see, kids don't know that their ideas are worth money, so our challenge to them:  come up with your concepts, be ready to "pitch" them in a genuine way, and we will bring in investors, inventors and others to consider taking it to the next level.  And then something cool happened....

Our investors would like to take 4 concepts to get patented, and 1 more to get trademarked!

Yes, our kids are pursuing patents.  AND it's such a variety of kids too:  mostly female, cool engineering ideas, some at-risk kids.  We've won other great awards, but now we're on to the highest levels of authenticity in the world of intellectual property!!    As teachers, we are now dreaming of the potential "positive contagion" that this could become, a catalyst and motivator for so many, as they see what their peers have accomplished.

There's going to be a big celebration if/when these patents are approved, a celebration of so many things!!

Another milestone

posted Oct 10, 2014, 2:48 AM by Michael Reilly

Today is the day.  We started CDAT a long time ago, with the blessing of the County, to try a new way.  It wasn't solely our idea, it was a concept that could be applied, and it was already a curiosity of our district leaders.  And now it's going to be tried school-wide, starting today, for a month.  In fact, multiple high schools are trying it out this Fall in Gwinnett, so thousands of students will be giving PBL a shot, and at Lanier High it starts TODAY!

For the CDAT project, click here.

In short, we are going to genuine invention: copyrights, trademarks, patents.  And it's not "pick the best", it's something anyone can win, everyone can win.  On Nov. 7, we will have investors, inventors, creators, coming by to "shop around" and find what's worth their time and money, for real.  Our kids have one month to get their concept ready, and know every detail.  The key here:  you don't need a finished product, you need a really GREAT concept.  Check out Kickstarter:  so much committed money before anything is real.

Our other academies have some great ideas too, but I can't spoil their surprise here.  Let's just say it's so cool to see the creativity of our educators unleashed.  Not all of them, change is hard.  But some are running with it, and it's all you would hope for as we try to constantly improve education.

So here we go, should be a great experience!

From outer space to the deep sea

posted Sep 21, 2014, 1:46 PM by Michael Reilly

    It's all about people in schools: the people we serve (aka, kids), our classroom educators, our administrators, our community.  So it's pretty important to get great people whenever possible, and one of our new GREAT people is at it again!
    Janelle Wilson, our new Engineering and Chemistry teacher, hosted a wildly successful communication for our students with the International Space Station.  It was so cool to have our students literally speaking with an astronaut in space!  And now she's going out to the deep blue sea!  This trip was supposed to be this summer, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) had to change it up.  Well she ships out to sea tomorrow.
    While we will miss her, Mrs. Wilson will be blogging from sea, as she does crazy stuff like count fish and other things.  Click here for her blog, and you are encouraged to comment!  If you act fast, you can vote on which stuffed bull from Longhorn country goes on the trip too.  As you can read in her blog, she will be able to share so many science and engineering concepts with her students while at sea and when she returns.  
    Maybe next time she'll take all of us on a class trip!

Year 5 Begins

posted Sep 14, 2014, 10:50 AM by Michael Reilly

    Each year seems to begin with some type of evolution in our program, and 2014 is no different.  We were co-leaders with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in teaching 5 high schools about project-based learning in May, and this Fall is when it all begins.
    While constant change, mostly positive growth, can be exhausting, it's part of owning and developing a program.  That leads me to the main point of this posting: the CDAT teaching team is remarkable, amazing, inspirational.  This group is such a solution-oriented group, with so many great ideas, a wonderful level of trust and shared vision.  CDAT was intended to be great for students, but it was also built to foster the ownership of the staff, and that has really come together.
    For example, when many teachers are asked to try something different, you frequently hear something like "But I can't sacrifice that instructional time."  This is a teacher making the assumption that if THEY don't say it, the students CAN'T learn it.  And it's phrase of fear and anxiety, for the success of the kids, and it makes sense.  If the kids are going to learn, without the teacher's clear plan and timeline, then how will they?  Many teachers are clearly not used to having students do that.
    With our team, that phrase is never heard.  We have built a great level of trust, to focus on the learning, not necessarily the teaching.  We listen to each other for important and stressful events, deadlines, etc., and flex around those priorities.  Our group tries to think in the mindset of the student, from their perspective, so we can do things right.
    So as we go through this year, let's keep this crew in mind.  Their faith in each other, their faith in this team dynamic, has been a constant for years.  This team approach has been the "magic" that has made CDAT special for years, and is the spark that we share whenever asked to speak.  Way to go CDAT team, you're awesome!!

End of the year wins

posted Jun 10, 2014, 6:56 AM by Michael Reilly

The school year calendar has so many trends, and the end of the year has the combination of exhaustion with exhilarating accomplishment.  This year is no different, and we are SO proud of our kids and staff!  We crushed the End of Course Tests, with 100% pass becoming the norm (we missed one by 1 question, the others were all 100% pass), and our Exceeds beat our high expectations!  Our Exceeds now averages 70%:  72% in 9th Lang Arts, 78% in 11th Lang Arts, 67% in Biology, 80% in Economics, and an amazing 91% in US History!

And we did well in competitions too!  You can see our awards page, but some highlights include Best in State and National Semi-finalists for the Verizon App Challenge, winners of a State video contest, and more.  

Our seniors did GREAT in their first year of internships, editing video with Biscardi Creative, making movies for the United Way, trailers for HiRez Studios and so many others.

Then, the week after school, our staff partnered with the SREB and trained 240 teachers in Gwinnett County in project-based learning, which should affect thousands of students in 5 high schools.  Pretty cool that we started with 30 kids in the Fall of 2010, and now affect thousands.  So exciting!

Now it's on to ISTE and share what we do at another level.  We have a poster presentation on June 30 to discuss our K-12 vertical PBL alignment, and have recently been asked to co-present with Suzie Boss in her ISTE lecture (and ISTE Live web broadcast) - what an honor!

As we grow to 400 students next year, our next goal is to not only maintain the quality of our academy, but to push our students even more to develop the skills they will need for their future.  I think we're going to do it!

Time for the DATTIES!

posted Apr 15, 2014, 8:15 AM by Michael Reilly

It's that time again when CDAT students and teachers share the great experiences from the year, and recognize some individual projects for their awesomeness!  This year we will even have CDAT peer voting on "Best of" in addition to other awards!

The evening will be April 30, from 6:30-8.  With our school now officially located in Sugar Hill (seriously, the County and State made it official), we'll start off with a dessert pot luck at 6:30, so please bring a "sweet treat" to share.  We will then move into the Theatre for our celebration.

A flyer is attached below, so please join us for an annual evening that truly celebrates what is GREAT in education.

Certified STEM!

posted Mar 6, 2014, 6:43 AM by Michael Reilly

We just received word this morning that the State of Georgia has named CDAT as the first traditional public high school certified STEM Program!  There are only about 4 others, and all are charter or magnet.  We are so very proud of our students, teachers, and thankful for the County and administrative support.

What does this mean?  It means that authentic, creative and efficient learning has been reviewed by our State educational authorities, and they confirm that it is genuine and effective.  It means that a public high school can listen to some teachers with an idea that brings in the interests of students and community, and it can create a successful environment without spending big bucks on packaged systems, or demanding some type of filtering of students.   CDAT has always taken any student, from significant special needs to the highest level of gifted, and we will continue to do so.

PBL is real ladies and gentlemen, and we have the certification to prove it!

Excellent January!

posted Jan 29, 2014, 4:10 AM by Michael Reilly   [ updated Jan 29, 2014, 1:33 PM by Michael Reilly ]

We are so lucky here!  While nothing is ever perfect, and we have our share of improvements to make, but when we stop and reflect it is pretty awesome.  

In the past week:
Yes, a good month for sure.

If you weren't aware, our school is converting to a set of 5 PBL academies next year.  While we do not want to take ownership of these academies, we do feel that our CDAT students have demonstrated some great results from project-based learning to help this decision.  Check out to see what it's all about.  

For those already involved in CDAT, here's what it means for you:  if your student is going to be in 11th or 12th grade, really nothing.  We have that all set to be the same as this year, emphasizing entrepreneurial efforts and internships. 

If your student is going to be in 10th grade, the State of Georgia mandate for Pathways does apply to them.  Many pathways are very simple:  Advanced Math or Advanced Science require a student to take at least one AP class.  Yup, that's it.   The biggest question our current 9th graders (rising 10th) will face is their Pathway.
We are not going to offer Video Broadcasting and Music Technology Pathways in CDAT, they will be part of the Multimedia and Fine Arts Academy.  That does not mean that CDAT kids won't use cameras or music.  It means that if students want Video Broadcasting 2 and 3, or Advanced Music Tech on their transcripts, they would become part of the Multimedia and Fine Arts Academy.

CDAT is becoming the CDAT-STEM Academy.  Our focus will be less on the entertainment tech, and more on the engineering tech.  Most typically, we see 3D animators, game and robot programmers, mechanics and mechanical engineers, and students who truly enjoy advanced math and sciences. 

We're very excited about the Academies at Lanier, and feel this will allow even more students to discover their passions, which will enhance their entire education.

Now, it's time for me to go enjoy our snow day!

12th Grade Triumph!

posted Dec 21, 2013, 3:35 AM by Michael Reilly

This past Fall we started our first 12th grade cohort.  These were the students we started with, our "guinea pigs", as well as others added along the way.  These kids were groundbreakers again, as they are every year.  In 2013 our big experiment was creating an uber-efficient combination of Language Arts + Economics + Political Science + Internship.  

The "uber-combo" was pretty intense.  Normally, 12th graders are given one full semester of Political Systems, one full semester of Economics, one full year of Language Arts, and one full year of an Internship.  The experiment was to create a schedule that completed the Language Arts, Poli Sy and Econ in one semester, and just one hour a day. That's 25% of the allocated time.  Why? How?  

WHY is that we saw many inefficiencies in the separate subjects, that the academic standards overlapped too much to ignore.  In addition, Economics and Politics are very relevant to job internships that the kids were involved in, it was a meaningful discussion focus.  HOW is that Brittany and Brooks, our instructors, met for hours and hours, and developed a system where Brittany focused her Language Arts on readings that were relevant to Brook's Social Studies topics.  Students were encouraged to think about the topics as they related to their internship industries (gaming, movie production, and more).

Well, the semester is over, and how did they do?  First, they all passed the classes, no problem there.  But Economics is a state test, the "End of Course Test" (EOCT), and how would they fare on that?  Funny you should ask.  The most recent public data on the Economics EOCT was a 76% State rate, 79% County rate and a 69% Lanier High rate for the combined Pass or Exceeds in Spring 2012.  I'm sure there are more recent, and probably better numbers, but those are the County-listed (link is here).  How did we do?  100% pass, and 78% EXCEEDS!  Yes, in 25% of the normal time allotted!!  When teachers plan more efficiently, collaboratively, and students have a more relevant context for learning, BOOM!!

While I can get the data together, let's be clear, this is NOT a class of Gifted kids.  We have 2. It's racially diverse, we have our share of Free/Reduced lunch students, a good gender balance, challenges like ADHD, etc. The point is, they self-selected this method, no admission and no filter.  Sure, there are some unusual advantages like having only 22 kids, but I truly believe this goes back to our core subject teachers working with each other, making the classes relevant and efficient.

What an exciting way to end the year, what a high note.  I'll be sharing more about our CDAT12 kids, and our other kids, to start the 2014 year off right.  We have a lot in store for next year, and it starts right away!

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