District State: Kentucky
District Website: eminenceind.com
Challenge: As a small, rural district facing a declining population, poor test scores, and significant poverty and homelessness, Eminence Independent Schools was not properly equipping students for postsecondary opportunities. Leaders believed that the district was failing every metric of success.
Initiative: “Eminence Schools is a small district with a big vision; we desire to be the Disney World of education,” says Buddy Berry, superintendent. The district launched School on F.I.R.E., for “Framework of Innovation for Reinventing Education,” which requires students to become exemplars and complete more than 30 in-depth college and career experiences. Students earn microcredentials in areas such as AutoCAD, coding, 3D printing and laser cutting. In addition, students learn life skills, including public speaking and design thinking, and participate in community service projects.
Impact: The district’s early college initiative has seen 98% of students successfully transition to or through college. Most Eminence exemplars now graduate with a full year of college credits, and have helped raised thousands of dollars for philanthropic projects.
Advice: “The secret is in using the community and parents to help design, create and implement the program,” says Berry. Any effort must be approached with a “yes, and” mentality, he adds, and be embedded within core instruction.