Leaders in Learning: Making school cool again at Wilder schools

There's no homework, iPads for every student, and they're able to add their own interests to the school work! (KBOI Staff)

In Wilder, students say they're excited to learn.

That's because they're taking charge of their own education through a personalized learning program.

It was piloted last year by Jeff Dillon, superintendent and elementary school principal.

He said the idea started when he realized the previous model wasn't working.

"To me, if I am working in a traditional system that is not meeting the needs of our individual kids then I really need to work on creating a system or embedding a system that is personalized to really meet the needs of all students every day," said Dillon. "Our students in our community really need for us to personalize learning for students. We have a lot of mobility in our district. We probably have about 30-percent of our kids that are new from one year to the next. So, our ability to be adaptive, creative and personalized for kids is what we’re about and what we need to be.”

Wilder School District is one of 19 school districts in Idaho to be granted a Mastery-based Education waiver from the state Department of Education.

Students have the ability to set their own speed for learning, allowing them to master each subject before moving onto the next level.

Tonya Wheeler, who's son goes to Wilder, actually moved her son to the district just for this program.

"The biggest thing for me was the choice for your student to choose for themselves what their style of learning is," Tonya said. "Because we all know every kid does not have the same style of learning."

Tonya said her son used to actually pretend to be sick so he didn't have to go to school, but now he's excited to learn.

"He honestly told me during the first week, 'this is the best school year I've ever had so far!'"

Who wouldn't be excited to go to school when it's this cool? There's no homework, iPads for every student, and they're able to add their own interests to the school work!

"It's a whole new generation of school!" said Kahlilia Mark, a student.

While students do have a lot of fun, they are still held accountable.

They're taught to follow the 16 Habits of Mind in order to be responsible of their own success.

The students are also met one-on-one by their mentors (teachers) on a regular basis to go over their progress and to set the goals they plan to accomplish moving forward.

So far, it's working tremendously.

School leaders say they've noticed fewer absences, higher scores on tests and some extremely cool projects that never would have happened if it weren't for the students taking control of their own learning.

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