News

This innovative district lets students choose how to learn

By Dennis Pierce
April 7th, 2015

A district offers students 6 instructional models—an approach that has led to zero dropouts

choose-learningTo hear Taylor County Schools Assistant Superintendent Charles Higdon tell it, students shouldn’t be allowed to drop out of school—at least not without a fight.

“We have implemented a ‘zero dropout’ policy that does not allow students to drop out of our district,” he said. But rather than imprisoning students in front-facing classrooms, the rural Kentucky district is instead trying to entice at-risk, and even low-risk, students to enjoy their education through a series of innovative and distinct learning pathways–informally called “spokes.”

Students in Taylor County can actually choose how they want to learn from among six instructional models, including traditional, online, peer-led, and project-based learning. This highly student-centered approach has resulted in a 100-percent graduation rate within the district over the last few years, say administrators.

“We build a team around each child in the district, and we find out what their goals are—and the team helps guide them there,” Higdon said.

During the National School Boards Association’s annual conference last month, Higdon and Superintendent Roger Cook—whose vision is behind the district’s innovative approach—described how Taylor County gives students a wide choice in how they want to learn.

“Instead of saying, ‘This is how our district is going to be,’ we actually allow multiple approaches,” Higdon said in an interview.

Next page: How the district juggles PBL, online learning, and more