A pilot school with personalized learning shows promise for engaging students in real world problem solving.
In Aurora Colorado, William Smith Public School. is allowing teachers to iincorporate learning standards into activities that are hands on, and which students are motivated to learn. The approach has earned the school national praise, and a turnaround in academic success.
The school had been targeted by the state for intervention due to low test scores. However, that is turning around. APS did well on the last round of state tests, and left the state’s watch list. William Smith had the fourth highest median growth percentile on the English test, showing greater inprovements than 89 percent of Colorado students who had similar scores the year before.
Principal David Roll is proud of the students, and knows the school’s progress is being watched closely.
“This school is a bit of a test bed,” said Roll. He encourages students to play to their strengths — and to call him by his first name. “And we are something of a speedboat. If something doesn’t work here, we can quickly change directions and move forward with something else.”
While there are disciplinary problems, Roll says there is leeway in hiring teachers also because it is a district sanctioned public school. “These are dedicated, self-starting teachers who really make this school a part of their lives,” he said.