Little Rock not only offers but promotes a lifetime of learning. From innovative, public pre-K for all to graduate offerings unique to the planet, the region values education and economic development as inseparable.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore is among many who are enthusiastic about Next Generation Learning, which over the next few years will put all Pulaski County high school students into career-themed academies where team learning will be overseen by teachers following the same set of students through to graduation.
He called the coalition behind the industry-involved initiative “historic.” “We have four school districts coming together, five chambers of commerce, six cities and the Teachers [Arkansas Education] Association — all collaborating with the [Little Rock Regional] Chamber, for an unprecedented delivery,” he said.
“We know that through this effort we will elevate a new level of engagement for our students and that will lead to a new level of students being prepared for post-secondary opportunities.”
Business leaders looking to shape the future workforce are also cheerleaders.
Entergy Arkansas CEO Laura Landreaux told Arkansas Business that an educated, skilled and diverse workforce “is critical not only to Entergy Arkansas’ long-term mission, but also to the health of the communities we serve.”
Other executives who witnessed the Nashville, Tennessee, program were struck by how it mimics workplace teamwork and opens students’ minds.
Patrick Schueck, president and CEO of Lexicon Fabricators & Constructors of Little Rock, told Arkansas Business he’s passionate about the program.
“Ford NGL has had great successes, and I believe it can take learning in Pulaski County to the next level” Schueck said. “I’ve had a chance to see students in the academy model in other communities, and what struck me was the level of engagement and passion for learning. I talked with students who had a Plan A for the future, but also had a Plan B, and they were clearly all prepared for graduation.”
The curriculum makes sense to students, he said.
“Rather than our typical consumption model of learning, where kids sit and listen, it’s a creative model that lets kids learn through projects,” Schueck said.
“As the use of cellphones, iPads and computers has changed the way kids learn, act and communicate, Ford NGL has created a learning model that modernizes how we educate this next generation of technology-savvy kids.”