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February 09, 2018 05:07 PM

Educators From Across Country Visiting Harrisburg Elementary Schools

Educators from schools in seven different states including South Dakota have been traveling to the Harrisburg School District. They're wanting to see how Harrisburg is implementing a new personalized learning program in the classroom. The district is one of the first in the state to provide this option to students from second grade on up to 12th. 

Fifth grader Jonah Knuth and his reading group are discussing their latest book assignment. 

"I feel like I'm learning way more than I would in a normal studio because we have that choice to work on different measurement topics," Knuth said. 

At Journey Elementary, 94 students opted into personalized learning and they're led by four facilitators. 

Those facilitators identify where each second through fifth grader is at and then challenges them accordingly.

"Why do we have a system that treats all of our learners the same when we know, in the back of our mind, they're not," Lape said. 

District Innovative Programs Director Travis Lape says we need to break down the walls of traditional thinking. 

"So a second grader is maybe reading at a level 40, which would be traditionally a fourth-grade level. Now we can get them into those level books and support them where they're at rather than having them be maybe by themselves in a traditional second grade, reading at that level by themselves," Lape said. 

Jamie Ackart is an assistant principal from Liberty, MO. She came all the way to South Dakota to see how the system works. 

"It's a whole culture shift and a whole mindset but what I love is they're taking the risk and trying it and opening their doors and letting people come in and allowing us to take away bits and pieces that will help us be better for kids," Ackart said.

The goal in Harrisburg is to have a successful pathway for students of all ages so they can drive their own learning. 

"Making sure that our learners come from the elementary and can move right into middle school and have that same type of environment and same setup for them. Their structure is there. That will move right into our high school as well," Lape said.  

Freedom Elementary also offers a personalized learning pathway. 65-percent of its students chose to take part this year. 325 visitors have stopped by Journey and Freedom in the past two years to see how the schools are implementing the program.

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