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story.lead_photo.caption Construction workers put the finishing touches on a new wing Dec. 15 at the Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale. - Photo by Michael Woods

SPRINGDALE -- School officials have a short window to let seventh-graders know they can enroll in the Don Tyson School of Innovation for the coming school year.

A meeting for parents of seventh-graders who are interested in enrolling in the charter school is scheduled tonight at the school on Hylton Road.

Information meeting

• Open to parents of children entering seventh grade in August

• 6 p.m. today

• Don Tyson School of Innovation, 2667 Hylton Road, Springdale

• Information can be found at soi.sdale.org.

Source: soi.sdale.org

On the web

Office of Innovation for Education: www.innovativeed.org/blog

"We're just trying to serve children and families," Superintendent Jim Rollins told the School Board recently. "We're providing our families a choice at an earlier level."

The School of Innovation opened in 2014-15 and last school year had 500 students in the eighth through 10th grades.

School District officials want to have 1,000 students in the eighth through 12th grades by the 2018-19 school year. They planned to add seventh-graders that same year, said Megan Slocum, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

But parents inquiring about enrolling younger children pushed district officials to get permission from the State Board of Education to add seventh-graders this fall, Slocum said.

"We have kids who are ready for something different," Slocum said. "It's our job to provide it."

Slocum anticipates space for 25 to 100 seventh-graders, and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, she said.

The program best suits students who are creative and like hands-on learning experiences, Slocum said. The program is designed for students to develop skills to self-direct their learning, persevere, communicate, work with their peers and to be innovative, she said.

Students also follow a personalized learning plan and are expected to work at the teacher's pace or better, she said. Multiple classes meet in large open spaces. Students work in groups to finish projects. Students complete courses based on "competency," or mastering content and demonstrating knowledge.

Seventh-graders will have classes in a pod within the building, Slocum said.

Schools in different parts of the country are offering "competency-based" education, including down to kindergarten, said Denise Airola, director of the Office of Innovation for Education at the University of Arkansas. Students in those types of programs have to develop skills to succeed, including self-management and goal-setting.

Students are active in the learning process, she said. Parents attending the meeting may want to ask about how coursework translates into credits and grades, the safeguards in place for students who start to fall behind, what support is provided to parents and where the program offers flexibility, Airola said.

"Ideally in these types of environments, the path to success is clear, the learning outcomes are really relevant to students and students are aware of what the criteria are for moving on," Airola said.

The application requires the names of the student and parent, a parent email address and phone number, and the name of the school the student is scheduled to attend in the fall, whether it's one of the four middle schools in Springdale or another school.

NW News on 06/20/2017

Print Headline: Tyson School of Innovation prepares to add seventh grade

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