The Little Rock School District (LRSD) joined the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and ForwARd Arkansas Practicum partners on Friday to announce recommendations for a best-practices approach, introducing a new toolkit to support academic success for LRSD middle school students.
Katie Barnes (Atchison, Kan.), Rachel Cole (Bloomington, Ind.), Connor Donovan (Little Rock, Ark.) and Kirby Richardson (Rogers, Ark.) were the four students working with ForwARd Arkansas on the recommendations.
Since last September, the entities have been working with representatives from various agencies to develop a toolkit that would provide hands-on, project-based learning opportunities for students at each LRSD middle school. Specifically, the Practicum project focused on Cloverdale, Dunbar, Forest Heights STEM, Henderson, Mabelvale, Mann Magnet, Pinnacle View and Pulaski Heights – and what community partnerships will help them improve student achievement. The model created through these partnerships will foster teamwork and direct application of classroom skills.
While community-school partnerships have been identified districtwide, the relationship between Heifer International and Dunbar, as well as West Central Community Center and Henderson, were highlighted. In the 2018-19 school year, Dunbar students will familiarize themselves with the mission and work of Heifer International to study and address issues of poverty, hunger, and sustainability. Henderson students will take advantage of unique communication opportunities at West Central Community Center to develop programing support for the center’s new radio station.
“This toolkit will serve as a guiding mechanism for the future of project-based learning in the Little Rock School District – and I congratulate Clinton School of Public Service students on a job well done,” said Susan Harriman, executive director, ForwARd Arkansas. “ForwARd’s work will not stop here. We are committed to continuing a partnership with Little Rock School District to best serve its students, families and the community as a whole.”
“This is not a cookie-cutter approach, and we are excited about our next steps,” said LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore. “Community support is vital to the success of our public schools. We are grateful for the extensive commitment by our partners and the investment in our students by the Clinton School and ForwARd Arkansas.”
Research indicates that students earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school and are more motivated when schools, parents, families and communities work together. High quality schools have demonstrated track records connecting with community resources and families to improve student outcomes at elementary and secondary levels.
“We, at the Clinton School of Public Service, are thankful for ForwARd Arkansas’ support in our efforts to engage community partners with Little Rock School District middle schools,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School (UACS) of Public Service. “Through guidance from the toolkit and the adoption of hands-on, project-based learning, schools will be able to provide enriching experiences to support students’ academic growth at a crucial time in their development.”
List of School Partners
Cloverdale – Arkansas Space Grant Consortium · Dunbar – Heifer International
Forest Heights – Wings for Dreams · Henderson – West Central Community Center
Mabelvale – Philander Smith College · Mann – Arkansas State University
Pinnacle View – First Security · Pulaski Heights – UA Little Rock