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Watertown To Offer Learn At Your Own Pace

June 22, 2014, 9:55 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Watertown To Offer Learn At Your Own Pace
WATERTOWN, SD -

More schools in the state are trying a learn-at-your-own-pace model of teaching. Watertown is offering that option to ninth and tenth grade students starting this fall.

At the Watertown high school 60 students will take part in a program that lets them work though core subjects of math, science, social studies and English as quickly as they'd like.

"This is a fabulous opportunity for our students and our community and for our staff," assistant Principal Mitzi Moore said.

The program is voluntary and will have one teacher for each of the four core subjects. If students want to finish four years’ worth of a given subject in two, they can.

The goal is to make time available for internships, job shadowing or college classes.

"It's not a method of finishing and getting done with school early. It's a method of finishing the requirements for that high school diploma at a little quicker pace and allowing way more opportunities for them while they're still here with us in high school," principal Mike Butts said.

In fact, students who choose and apply themselves could even leave high school with a diploma and an associate's degree.

There are some challenges that will come with this as teachers take on different roles, but the district is expecting that and is preparing.

Anita Bach will teach English. She's spending the summer preparing for her new role, which will include helping students map out a high school plan as they all progress at their own pace.

"The content area is the given; that's what we know. It's the stuff outside of that, this is brand new for us," Bach said.

The district is sending teachers to training to equip them for those new challenges. It's also talking with other districts throughout the country that have or are trying the same model.

One district in South Dakota that's already tried this is Harrisburg. Watertown officials have been in close contact with administrators there.

Watertown expects to grow from the 60 students involved in the program this first year. Administrators anticipate one in four high school students will eventually be involved.

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