What does it mean by "STEM Certified, all-inclusive, project-based learning program"?
Let's take this one piece at a time.  
      The State of Georgia has a program called STEMGeorgia, which certifies schools as STEM programs.  As of our certification, there were 9, but this is just getting underway.  Georgia won't allow just anyone to claim STEM, they want to make sure there is substance in our programs.  We are "STEM certified"!  
      Next, we are all-inclusive in that we do NOT filter our students in any way.  Any student who has asked to be in our program has been accepted.  Our population mirrors that of the school in diversity (racial, gender, socio-economic, special education/needs).
      Finally, we are project-based.  That is, we don't believe in lecture as the only form of education, but as one form.  We have a college-like schedule where the students do receive a lecture or more per week, but more of their time is spent working on projects that demonstrate their skills from their classes.  
      So there you have it.  We are a STEM-certified, all-inclusive, project-based learning program (and a pretty good one at that!)

How will this look on a transcript?
This will appear just like any other set of classes, only the method of learning approach is different.

What are the classes in the program?
Our 2012-2013 9th graders are taking 4 credits in 3 hours:  Science (Biology or Chemistry), Language Arts, Digital Media and P.E./Health.  Yes, P.E./Health!  Science is the preference of most students in CDAT, so that's where we're going.  This will be the same for 9th graders starting in Fall 2013.

Our 10th graders take Science (either Chemistry or AP Bio), Language Arts and a technology of their choice, in 3 consecutive hours.  They will become specialists in their technology and begin to develop a professional portfolio of their work, while applying it to their Science.  They will also work as a specialist in their teams, developing communication and collaboration skills that are demanded in the modern workplace.

In the Fall of 2013, our 11th graders will combine Physics (AP or CP), Language Arts (AP or CP), US History (AP or CP) and Technology Entrepreneurship.  This year will really push students to develop authentic products using their skills, over longer periods of time, to be publicly shown or even sold, while demonstrating their academic knowledge.

Finally, our 12th graders will be taking Language Arts (AP or CP), Economics/Political Science and an internship with a local engineering or entertainment company.  We already have companies committed to working with our students, and welcome others to get involved!

Outside of CDAT time, students focus on their other requirements, at whatever level they choose, AP or CP.  For example, 9th graders could take AP Human Geography, a specific Math class, as well as a Foreign Language or Band (this is where having PE/Health embedded in CDAT really opens up another choice for students).

How can a 9th grade student take 4 credits in 3 hours?
First, don't think typical high school lecture.  Think of it like work: do you have one hour for emails, then one hour for spreadsheet work, then one hour to write a report?  Now throw in a college-like twist:  you attend scheduled classes, but not in an assembly line process.  Add this change: if you learn better in small group or lecture format, choose!  Beyond teaching subject matter, we will help students learn "how they learn", and how to plan.  Finally, think about "blending" the subjects:  using some type of digital technology to demonstrate their math, and using their research, reading and writing in the explanation of their digital expression, we are creating more efficient use of the student's time.  Less redundancy, more reinforcement.

What is project-based learning and the "flipped classroom"?
Project-based learning is when the student can choose a genuine, meaningful demonstration of their learning.  Instead of "take this test" or "make this model", project-based learning (PBL) says "show me how you can use this learning, however you want."  The "flipped model" is really just college:  they don't have you read in class in college, they expect you to read and come back ready for discussion.  We want to get our students ready for college, and this fits well.

What about the "big tests", standardized testing?
We want standard testing, because it helps us to evaluate ourselves against the larger student body.  For example, Math might have common testing every 6 weeks.  We will make sure our students are covering the same standards in those 6 weeks, but in their most efficient and effective ways, not ours.  If they learn best by sharing a white board with a study group, awesome!  We'll make sure it's effective for them, and encourage it.  We've done well so far with this method, and think we can improve even further.

How will they be evaluated?
Students will expected to create plans, benchmark goals and final products for projects they choose that address the AKS/standards necessary for completion of each course. They will measured against the AKS and their plans, but we will also utilize standard GCPS testing such as EOCT and other testing to validate our progress and results.

Is there enough room in their schedule for this?
Now that P.E./Health is part of 9th grade, this actually creates one more slot available for our students.  One challenge we have seen is for students who want to also take a performing arts class like Band, Drama, etc., in addition to a foreign language.  This can be a tough choice, and we wish we could fit everyone.  However, our mission is to get kids ready for the creative digital worlds of engineering, entertainment, and more.  

Why is Lanier trying this program?
A great deal of research now points to improved academic results from student ownership and authentic work. Additionally, the world of Digital Media is growing at a rapid pace, with a particular emphasis in Georgia. This program combines the interests of the students, a proven project-based learning approach, and a target industry of the local economy. We believe this program will be a positive option for many (not all) of our students.  (We've done really well too:  great test scores, many awards and accolades, speaking at national conferences!)

How do students sign up for this program?
Students can elect to choose this program during the Elective Fair at their middle school, or during Elective registration at the high school.  Because this includes core classes, middle school teachers can elect to place students in CDAT.  In Spring 2013, in preparation for the Fall 2013 school year, we will be using an application for our potential CDAT students.  Click here for the application.

What do you expect on the application?
Our application is not intended to evaluate a student on anything other than their self-evaluation for CDAT.  Not spelling, not grades, no historical or academic check at all.  Just what it says on the document.  We will collect them during the week of registration, then have our list of students by the following Monday.  We anticipate adding approximately 90 students in the Fall of 2013.

What kind of student does well in CDAT?
We created CDAT for students who would like to apply more creativity to their schooling, as well as be more responsible for themselves. While students who might pursue careers in engineering, video/movies, game development and other creative areas, we are also a great place for the mature student who wants to work on real-world project development skills. It’s not a place for kids who need to be told what to do every few minutes.  If students are frequently disruptive to their peers, they are asked to leave the program.

Who do I contact for more information?
If you have questions about the CDAT program itself, please email Mike Reilly ( Email is best, we are not close to phones very often. For information on how to register or visit, you can contact our Counseling office for forms or other details.
Michael Reilly,
Mar 21, 2014, 4:53 AM