NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) - The Newport School District is sharing success stories from a new method of education that they began in the fall of 2016.
It's called the School of Innovation. The program gives students more freedom to work at their own pace and in the location that they feel most comfortable.
"We wanted something different," Newport High School Principal Terri Kane said. "Something we could offer our students that would be tailored to them and so that's how it came up."
There are nearly 70 students in the SOI right now.
They use an online curriculum called Spark, which allows the kids to set their own pace in each course.
This forces them to manage their time well, which Kane said ultimately prepares them for college or the workforce.
"So what we're doing is we're offering a safety net for them to be able to experience how to manage their time, manage their courses," Kane said.
SOI includes students from grades 7-12. Kane said their younger students struggled at first, but are now keeping up with their classwork better.
Each of those students is given a teacher mentor.
"They are required, whether they are excelling or struggling, every child is required to meet with their mentor, whether it's five minutes or 20 minutes," Kane said.
The mentor then decides which level of freedom the student should be in based on if they are adequately meeting the goals they set together.
Level one is very similar to a traditional classroom. Level four, however, offers complete flexibility.
Those students have free movement across campus and no set schedule. They can also bring outside lunches into school.
"We have picnic tables all around campus, they enjoy being able to go sit at the picnic tables," Kane said. "I think one of the biggest incentives for them is I just have to be at school six hours a day and so if I want to sleep later because I'm nocturnal and I stay up later, I can sleep in a little later and come to school a little later. If I'm not and I'm an early riser and I don't mind doing that, I can leave early and do something else."
Kane said student feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive.
"It's a lot more calm and I can definitely start working at my own pace so I can get a lot more work done in a short amount of time than a regular classroom," said Katy Lore, a junior who entered SOI at the beginning of this school year.
She said now she would hate to go back to traditional learning.
"I can work more steady, more at a regular pace and keep going with things," she said.
Kane said there was a student who transferred to Newport from another state who was about three credits short. He thought there was no way he could graduate on time until they moved him to SOI.
"It wasn't that this child couldn't do the work," Kane said. "He was constrained by the teacher. He felt like he was the oddball out so he didn't feel like he fit well into the classroom environment and when we removed that environment and him having to be there, he just blossomed."
There is also one student who will be done with college courses in May, but is only a junior.
She will begin taking college classes next year instead.
"One of our main goals is to be able to expose students who want to start that college career early and also be able to expose kids who never thought college was in their future, that it's on our dime right now and be able to expose them to that and let them know that it is in their reach and that they are capable of doing that," Kane said. "And providing them that support while they are doing that. I think we are going to reach a lot more kids that wouldn't necessarily walk through college doors."