Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, St. Paul High School is one of a handful of public schools serving a couple hundred K-12 students in rural Arkansas. With limited employment opportunities and low college attendance rates, families living in St. Paul face a number of challenges that result from being fairly isolated and disconnected from the world outside of the small town.
Four years ago, the school began a dramatic digital learning transformation that included an overhaul of instructional practice and classroom design, the creation of an online learning lab to expand access to college-level courses, and a major shift in the school culture among students and teachers. As a result, the high school went from being one of the lowest performing schools in the state to one of the highest. Led by Daisy Dyer Duerr, St. Paul High went from being a Phase II turn-around school in 2010 to an Arkansas Top 10% performance school in 2013. The increase in their graduation rates is nothing short of phenomenal – with rates increasing from 61% in 2009 to 91% in 2012. Furthermore their dedication to helping their student’s literacy rates is evidence by the fact that they are ranked first in the state for literacy rates among low socioeconomic status schools, ranked fourth in the state for literacy rates, and third in the state for “most improved” rates over a length of time.
St. Paul High School, a part of the Huntsville School District, is prime example of the type of region that the newly passed E-rate Modernization Order is designed to help, and is a testament to the type of transformation that can occur once we close the “rural fiber gap.” With a more stable future of federal funding, St. Paul can sustain and build upon the amazing changes they have started, and continue to provide quality education for all of their students.