Lexington, SC - Business leaders, elected officials, and educators joined SC Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, to take a bus tour of some Midlands' schools Tuesday. They did this to see and better understand the transformative practices of the Transform SC programs. This pilot program helps schools implement innovative educational programs and practices.
The group’s bus stopped to tour four separate schools, several of which were in Lexington County. In Lexington District Four they went from classroom to classroom at Sandhills Primary and the ECC in Swansea. They also visited BC High School in Lexington School District Two and Lexington Middle School in District One.
Approximately 36 months ago, the state rolled out the initiative at a number of schools across SC. The bus tour gave area leaders the opportunity to follow up on the progress of the programs. During their stops Tuesday, they were able to interact with both teachers and students in the classroom to hear first-hand their opinion on its success.
SC State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, an educator with many years of classroom experience, listened intently as the administrators and teachers at Sandhills Primary School explained how they have changed the way they are teaching to better serve the modern child. She also stooped down to ask the students questions and hear what they had to say firsthand.
Parents of Sandhills and other District Four students have the opportunity to select Montessori learning programs for their children in the early grades. Montessori is a method of learning that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori more than a century ago.
It is an educational approach that is child-centered. It was developed after scientists observed children and their learning patterns from birth to adulthood. It has been successfully used in many cultures worldwide.
The Montessori techniques recognize that children are naturally eager to learn. They can initiate learning themselves within a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. These techniques also help to develop the whole child. This includes physical, social, emotional, problem solving, and decision making skills. It has been offered in the Swansea / Gaston school system for some time with great success.
Sandhills Montessori classrooms are quiet, comfortable, and conducive to learning. When you walk in from the halls, you are greeted with soft lights and music and children who are sitting in small groups on mats on the floor. In several of these classrooms, the children were working to solve problems on computers.
Each of them seemed completely enthralled and encapsulated in their work, seemingly oblivious to the group of adults that had walked in.
Currently, fifty-five schools from five separate districts are participating in the Transform SC program across the state.
This program is divided into four separate parts that include techniques such as project-based learning.
This technique allows students to learn normal curriculum like reading, math, and science through real world experiences. In this way, students can work as a team and are evaluated by the other team members. Students that aren’t pulling their weight in the project can actually be fired by the rest of the team.
It also includes blended learning. This mixes face to face and digital instruction much like an employee would have with an in-service training program in the modern day workplace.
In Lexington Four, students are using Chrome Books, and in some cases I-Pads, to receive a portion of their education. The remaining instructional time is filled by a teacher in a more traditional teaching format.
The Transform SC initiative also relies on continuous assessment of students. This means they receive constant feedback and instruction through the technology that have access to.
The final part of the program is competency-based learning. This allows students to move through assignments at their own pace.
With these techniques, teachers aren’t forced to slow the pace of students who learn and retain some portions of their lessons faster than others. In traditional teaching, this would be necessary to allow students who are moving at a slower pace to keep up.
The goal of the entire program is to get students prepared for real life and ready to pursue their desired career path after they graduate. That is why the input of the business leaders who have assisted in the development of the program is so important. They are helping schools statewide instill positive traits in the state’s students who are their potential future employees.
Superintendent Spearman said during the tour of the Swansea schools that her department is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the way that schools prepare children for life. She stressed the importance of listening to business leaders, teachers in the classrooms, and the children that they teach. This allows them an opportunity to better assess the programs and techniques that schools use to teach and prepare our SC children for life.
It’s important to note that several of the Lexington County school districts that the tour visited Tuesday are considered to be small or poor, underfunded, and rural. Although they constantly struggle to stretch the tax payer funding that they receive, they still provide some of the most innovative and effective programs in the state. In the Swansea and Gaston areas, all of their schools are Transform SC certified.
If you would like to hear more about Transform SC and the see what schools are involved, check out their website at http://sccompetes.org/transformsc/