Pea Ridge Approach to Personalized Learning Drives Student Outcomes, School Culture

April 15, 2019
Rick Neal, Superintendent, Pea Ridge School District

In a shift away from the “one size fits all” approach that has characterized public education in Arkansas for decades, Pea Ridge School District in Northwest Arkansas – a ForwARd community – is driving student achievement and school culture through a focus on personalized learning at all grade levels.

Using innovative, student-driven teaching methods and curriculum specialization, Pea Ridge educators develop goals and assignments designed specifically to bolster the strengths of each student, while identifying and improving students’ areas of weakness. In giving students more ownership and accountability for how and when they complete course requirements, personalized learning also prepares students for success and productivity when they enter the workforce.

A comparative analysis conducted by Renaissance Learning based on the 2018-2019 Early Literacy Assessment and Star Reading and Math tests indicate that Pea Ridge kindergarten through second grade students in the personalized learning program consistently show higher percentages of students performing at or above benchmarks when compared with their peers in a traditional classroom structure.

Students themselves can identify the benefits of personalized learning. In a recent survey, 58% of Pea Ridge students indicated that they learn more when given the opportunity to complete an assignment how they see fit. More than three-quarters of Pea Ridge students – 78% – said they learn more when allowed to work at their own pace.[1]

The impact of personalized learning in Pea Ridge can also be seen in increased student attendance — particularly for high school freshmen — and a significant reduction in the number of disciplinary incidents in the primary

Due to the success of this program so far, Pea Ridge continues to expand its use of personalized learning techniques:

  1. Prior to the fall of 2018, the District allocated each student 60 minutes of personalized learning time each week. This school year, that number has more than doubled to 150 minutes per week.
  2. To increase attendance and ensure that every student is getting the most out of their personalized learning time, Pea Ridge is introducing “mini-electives” that allow middle school students to choose subjects that interest them. These 40-minutes sessions meet four times per week and include journalism, band, sports, art, robotics, dance classes and other topics that complement and enrich students’ classroom learning.
  3. This year, Pea Ridge will adopt Standards-Based Grading, which identifies and evaluates objective and observable benchmarks to determine mastery, rather than the subjective or biased grading methods of the past.[2]

For more information about Pea Ridge’s approach to personalized learning, please contact Pea Ridge Elementary School Principal Tracy Hager at Thager@pearidgek12.comor Pea Ridge Intermediate School Principal Mindy Bowlin at