Springdale, AR

CSSR is the lead technical assistance provider for the Race to the Top District project in Springdale, AR. The district was the top-scoring applicant in the 2013 federal Race to the Top District grant competition—selected from more than 200 applicants representing 80 school districts across 21 states. Springdale Public Schools (SPS) is the second largest school district in the state of Arkansas with more than 21,000 students in grades PreK-12. SPS has long been a leader in the state of Arkansas, and recognized nationally, for the work they have done to personalize learning for students and to inform statewide conversations about educational reform.

Dr Rollins with teachers

The following goals are part of the Springdale project:

  1. Drastically accelerate student achievement
  2. Close the achievement gap
  3. Deepen student learning through personalized learning strategies, supported by a culture of collaboration


As national experts in transforming schools into personalized learning environments, CSSR’s school change coaches are intensively supporting the work of Goal 3—critical to achieving the objectives in Goals 1 and 2. This work includes: piloting a Seat Time Waiver for the Arkansas Department of Education; implementing personalized learning plans with student-led conferencing; and expanding graduation pathways through increased academy options and articulated coursework with local colleges. Goal 3 also includes work towards creating a culture of collaboration – by design – through change leadership and critical friends’ group training.

A key aspect of the Springdale project is the state pilot transitioning away from the (seat)time-based Carnegie Unit as the sole determinate for course completion towards graduation. Springdale is piloting a competency-based model of personalized learning progressions where students move through coursework by demonstrating mastery of course competencies through authentic performance tasks. To this end, Springdale students are completing work on personal learning plans that document progress towards short- and long-term goals, and customize their personalized learning pathways around personal, academic and career interests.


Personalizing schools is a key theme for Springdale schools. The system the district is developing will give students more of a voice in setting goals for academics, social skills and their future.

-Marsha Jones, Grant Coordinator

Key stakeholders in the Springdale work are learning from the New England schools that are part of CSSR’s i3 New England Network for Personalization and Performance. Similarly, a key aspect of the work in the i3 NETWORK schools is a move towards flexibility in earning credit towards graduation.

Students Teacher With ComputerAs part of initializing the work in Project Year 1, CSSR conducted a Summer Institute in 2014 to support the grant implementation. Work is underway towards the following elements: creating inquiry-based units that align with course competencies; developing processes for implementing personal learning plans and student-led conferences at all of the middle schools, junior highs and high schools; professional development on elements of change leadership that are crucial to transformative school redesign; and utilizing critical friends protocols to improve the effectiveness of professional learning communities.

The Springdale Race to the Top work is groundbreaking in the region. Arkansas is now the 41st state to provide for a seat-time waiver, a critical component in the work towards building an educational program where learning is a constant, and time is a variable, measure of student progress.