The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce will host an informational meeting with University of Arkansas at Little Rock students, faculty, and staff Tuesday, Oct. 22, to discuss educational opportunities that could be achieved in Pulaski County Schools through the Ford Next Generation Learning initiative.
The meeting will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at the UA Little Rock Student Services Center auditorium. It is an opportunity to hear directly from the Chamber of Commerce on what Ford Next Generation Learning can help facilitate for Pulaski County communities, businesses, and schools, including UA Little Rock, as well as to learn how to become involved in upcoming visioning and planning efforts.
In partnership with the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, Little Rock School District, North Little Rock School District, and Pulaski County Special School District, the chamber is leading an exploratory study of how the Ford Next Generation Learning initiative could transform local high school experiences by leveraging strong community and business partnerships. The initiative would provide a collaborative framework for educators, employers, and community leaders that ultimately would improve regional workforce development.
“This initiative has proven successful in more than 40 other cities across the United States and Great Britain,” said Dr. Erin Finzer, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Ford Next Generation Learning communities report dramatically improved test scores and high school graduation rates, as well as better prepared students for the workforce and higher education.”
Some characteristics of the initiative include professional development for teachers with an emphasis on experiential and project-based learning; themed career academies that reflect local business and industry; and community engagement in support of high schools, workforce development, and community and economic development.
Superintendents from the four Pulaski County school districts signed a memorandum of understanding Aug. 2 solidifying their agreement to strengthen all programs for student success across the four districts. The school districts share a common vision and sense of opportunity for high school transformation through a career-themed academy model.
In May 2019, a Phase I Findings and Recommendations report was completed. The goal of the study was to assess opportunities and feasibility across the four districts, highlight existing pockets of excellence, and provide a recommended path forward. Costs associated with the Phase I study were underwritten by Entergy Arkansas. The study results indicated the four public school districts are well positioned for transformation.
The Phase I report outlines an inclusive community planning process that includes community visioning sessions as well as a master planning committee comprised of business and community members, teachers, and school district officials who would be tasked with preparing a master plan to guide transformation efforts of the individual districts.