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Horning Middle School's FLIGHT Academy personalized learning program is expanding this school year from 90 students to 150 students, bringing in two new teachers in the process.

FLIGHT - an acronym for Facilitating Learning through Integration, Guidance, High expectations and Technology - was started four years ago by Krista Krauter and Jeffery Taege. The program is in high demand by parents and students, as well as the community at large, school officials say.

"We're fortunate that we are going to expand it," Principal Robert Blessington said. "Typically, it fills up pretty quickly or (there is) a waiting list, but with the expansion we can offer more spots."

FLIGHT's path

The program is a multi-age format, in which sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders all work together in a classroom setting for their core classes, including math and science. Those accepted into the program Students stay within that group for the three years they are at Horning (if they were accepted into the program as sixth-graders).

"It's developed to really try to encourage kids to really form their own path for the learning they want to experience," Krauter said.

Students have the option of taking more advanced math courses or regular science courses or filling in the holes they might have in a subject by going over those concepts they struggle to grasp.

"Personalized learning is very important because kids don’t learn at the same pace at the same time," Krauter said,  "It's where education is going in the future."

The students not only focus on proficiency in content standards, they also focus on 21st-century skills.

"Our students keep portfolios which demonstrate their work in collaboration, creativity, responsible use of technology, innovation, leadership and organization," Krauter said. "We believe excelling in these sills will lead to success in adulthood."

Because Horning opened up the classes for the program, they had to hire new teachers. Since students typically move through the curriculum quickly they had to find teachers that were certified in high school math and science.

"That's how they are earning high school credit, and this year, almost doubling the program, we brought on two more teachers with the high school certification and strength in personalized learning," Krauter said.

To help them take their own education into their hands, the students often work in groups doing project-based learning that tailors to their interests, meeting with an adviser once a week to check in with their goals or establish new ones. Students ask driving questions and get answers from experts in the community, learning right beside them with a showcase demonstrating to parents and the community what they learned.

"It's really a testament to this community," Krauter said.

Higher interest

The FLIGHT Academy has been recognized nationally by the Council of Chief State School Officers, who included the program in a documentary used by the government to demonstrate personalized learning.

"We never envisioned this four years ago," Krauter said. "Now parents are beating the door down and calling the superintendent and school board, saying yeah lets do it."

Although he is the new principal this year, Blessington wants to make the FLIGHT program available to everyone who wants to participate, according to Krauter, and continue to grow the program.

"His vision is not to say no those students," Krauter said.

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