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NLR school district’s ‘personalized learning approach’ a leg up on careers

introductory craft skills course at NLRHS

Local Arkansas school district offers industry certifications and currently certifies students as Certified Nursing Assistants and Pharmacy Technicians.

This is the second part of Erica Swallow’s two-part report.

Read Part 1: Industry links with North Little Rock educators to offer ‘value-added’ diploma

Inside NLRHS’s new state-of-the-art facilities, North Little Rock School District (NLRSD) Deputy Superintendent Beth Stewart and Christie Toland, NLRSD director of College and Career Readiness describe the vision for career development in the school district. They’re focused on five program paths, all of which are in operation at some level today:

  1. Engineering;
  2. Healthcare;
  3. Computer Science;
  4. Advanced Manufacturing;
  5. Transportation, Distribution and Logistics.

With its current offerings, NLRHS already certifies students in its Healthcare program in two popular entry-level positions: Certified Nursing Assistants and Pharmacy Technicians. This new Advanced Manufacturing pilot – along with the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics pilot, it is running concurrently – are part of a larger initiative.

“All of those programs will come together to form the North Little Rock Center of Excellence,” says Ms. Toland, speaking of the school district’s  charter application. “In addition to the career and technical education piece, we will also offer the opportunity for students to choose a traditional core curriculum, blended, or digital instruction – whatever meets their needs to achieve a high school diploma.” The district has its hearing with the Arkansas Department of Education in mid-October. If it is approved, the Center of Excellence will be a career-oriented school of its own within NLRHS.

“The things we want for the manufacturing program, and the other programs, we can’t do in a traditional setting,” Ms. Stewart explains. “It is truly a personalized learning approach, so that students can learn at the pace they need to.”

In the coming year, NLRSD hopes to partner with local community colleges, starting with Pulaski Technical College, to offer concurrent credit, so that NLRHS students can earn college credit while still in high school.

Even without the benefits of certifications and college credits, though, these programs can add a lot of value for students in their everyday lives. Blaine Miller is another senior in the Introductory Craft Skills class, and even though he plans to attend college to be a youth minister, he enrolled to learn how to use tools and build small objects, like birdhouses, he told AMP. “This class can really help for when I’m older, have my own house, and something messes up – I’m not going to have to call anybody, because I’ll already know how to fix it.”

Planning for Expansion and Collaboration

The team behind NLRSD’s career path programing has been collaborating with Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District, the other two public school districts in the area, to see the Advanced Manufacturing offerings come to life in other classrooms across the region.

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