Sunray ISD accelerates shift to self-paced learning

Remote learning requires teachers to give up some control
By: | July 2, 2020

In rural North Texas, closing school buildings created an opportunity for Sunray ISD’s educators.

The disruption accelerated the district’s journey toward a new model of student-driven instruction that has been freed from the strictures of standardized tests, Superintendent Marshall Harrison says.

For the last few years, the district has been anchoring its curriculum in research-based, self-paced learning that will allow high school seniors to graduate with associate’s degrees, says Harrison, a member of the District Administration Leadership Institute.

“Self-paced learning is going to drive our curriculum from here on out,” Harrison says. “We hope to come out on the other side of this and show people that the days of pen-and-paper and standardized testing is stepping our society backward.”

Remote learning requires teachers to give up some control of instruction as students become independent thinkers, Harrison adds.

The long-term goal for students: earn dual credit at Amarillo College, graduate with an associate’s degree and then be able to easily transfer to nearby West Texas A&M University or other institutions.

As a district planning to dive ever more deeply into online instruction, the biggest challenge Sunray ISD faces is the cost and speed of internet connections in the rural community.

“What COVID-19 has done is bring parent involvement back into the system,” Harrison says. “When this is all said and done, the respect level the community has for teachers will increase tenfold because they’ll understand the challenges.”

Read the other stories in our series on rural school districts and the challenges of COVID: