Classrooms in New Franklin, Missouri got a visit from members of the U.S. Department of Education.
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton wanted a firsthand look at the eMINTS approach to education.
eMINTS, or "enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies," is a professional development program created by the University of Missouri. The New Franklin School District implemented the program about 10 years ago. eMINTS promotes inquiry-based learning—students work in groups to solve problems instead of just reading textbooks— as well as an increased focus on using technology.
Shelton says he was excited by what he saw in New Franklin: "Oftentimes in my professional career I encounter adults who don’t know how to organize a group activity to get work done. And you see these fifth graders learning those skills at this stage, and frankly doing a lot better job than a lot of adults do. That tells me that we’re going beyond the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and teaching kids the skills they’re going to need for the rest of their lives. "
Fifth grade teacher Scott O’Connell’s classroom is filled with evidence of the eMINTS approach. His students huddle around iPads as they research Native American history. The posters with classroom expectations and student writing topics that hang on the wall were created by the students themselves.
"Any time they feel like they’re in charge of anything, especially their own learning, they’re going to do a better job and be more responsible and do things more efficiently," says O'Connell.
Superintendent David Haggard says while test scores have stayed roughly the same since the district started eMINTS, students have grown in what he calls their “21st Century skills.”
"With eMINTS," he says, "what we are seeing is their success beyond high school, and when they get to college they’re able to say ‘OK, I know how to address this problem, I know some of the different tools and the different avenues we can take.’"
Shelton says The New Franklin School District serves as a model, working with other districts that want to implement eMINTS strategies.He hopes to see eMINTS and programs like it grow across the country.