If the best schools are those that lead a district by example, as opposed to showcases where programs and policies are admired but not emulated, the Clark Magnet Science and Technology High School in the Glendale Unified School District (CA) ranks among the finest.
“Clark [Magnet] is definitely our realworld model for the entire district’s modernization program,” says Jim Gibson, the director of technology for the Glendale School District, “not just a showcase for how we wish things were. All of our schools are moving in that direction.”
That’s good news for the 29 other high schools, middle schools and elementary schools in this suburban Los Angeles district. Clark Magnet has been the recipient of massive amounts of high-tech support and, as a result, is a technologically advanced high school comprising five fully wired and networked buildings. The network includes more than 1,300 nodes of connection where students and faculty can plug into Clark’s digital network. The school is upgrading with four new servers on site and a dozen or so HP ProLiant servers at the district’s central office.
“We’ve been very careful to install HP technology that has an application to the curriculum or supports the school in a practical way,” says Gibson of the system. Each server has to do its own job and be prepared to do another server’s job. For example, in case of overload or server failure, another server must be able to take over its tasks. So if one server, for example, is unable to handle peak traffic, another HP server will pick up the slack, he adds. If the firewall fails, another server kicks in. “This is just one of the reasons we’re upgrading with HP ProLiant servers. They are cost effective and the new Pro-Liant servers we’re adding are flexible and extremely fast. We’re very high tech but also extremely practical.”
That principle of practicality runs through the philosophy that drives Clark Magnet, adds Gibson. “This is a digital school focused on computer technology as a specific and significant tool for learning,” he says. Combining the latest technology and the Internet with a projectbased curriculum and actual job-type experience, Clark has established an environment that is focused on the career path of the students. And with programs focusing on engineering, networking, animation, and graphic arts and design, Clark offers a curriculum designed to provide students the skills they need to start working in such fields immediately. “We’re all about preparing students for the working world.
“The curriculum is based on products and process — not necessarily on penciland-paper testing,” says Gibson. “We focus more on what students would encounter in the business world — like working in teams to develop a product and giving presentations using multimedia technology — as opposed to what we typically see in schools where kids are isolated and work more on their own.”
The academic-plus-hands-on approach is rigorous, he says, but it pays off. “Our ninth graders take everything from physics to what we call ‘break-and-fix’, a course that introduces them to the workings and vocabulary of computers. It’s a new vocabulary for all of the students since our students come into Clark with scores of languages, including Chinese, Tagalog, Korean and other Asian dialects,” says Gibson.
“We find that many of our students have great technical and math minds, but don’t necessarily have the English to support it. But the visual nature of the computers acts as a great leveler in terms of our limited English speaking students,” adds Gibson. “The integration of technology and the use of HP PCs have helped to harness the untapped intelligence and creativity of all the students at Clark Magnet, regardless of language skills.”
In fact, Clark is one of two schools in the State of California, and 30 in the U.S., to receive recognition as a Model School by the International Center for Leadership in Education under “Bringing Best Practices To Scale” — a program supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The school, along with the other 30 schools, will be showcased at the Model Schools Conference in Washington D.C. in June.