Epic Elementary school in Liberty seems to be living up to district’s promise

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Liberty Public School leaders assured parents the new Epic Elementary School would provide a new way of learning and believe they are delivering on that promise. The data they are presenting suggest it is working.

The key to academic success at Epic Elementary School is proving to be student engagement. Only 300 students are chosen at random to attend the new school, which opened for business in August 2014.

Look around Deb Caywood's fifth grade math workshop, and the new methods are easy to see.

IPads outnumber pencils by a wide margin, and students are encouraged to work together, in whatever form that sets well with them.

“The environment at Epic allows us to meet students where they are, instead of having the students have to meet the educational environment,” Caywood said.

Dr. Michelle Schmitz, the school's principal, says the new methods translate to high test scores. On the most recent set of MAP tests, no Epic students in third, fourth or fifth grade tested below 80 percent proficiency in math.

“When they're engaged in their learning the achievement automatically follows. When kids want to be in school, and they're excited to be here, that's when you see great things happen,” Dr. Schmitz said.

“We get to do things I didn't get to do at my old school,” Epic fifth grader Sydney Hightower said.

Hightower says she remembers third grade at a separate school as being boring. She says Epic's methods make school more exciting for her.

“We get to learn in a way that's individualized,” Hightower said. “Someone might be struggling with a concept. They can approach it in different ways. They can work it out or think to themselves, ‘how can I solve this.’”

Dr. Schmitz says she also sees vast improvement in student behavior. She says it's her belief that if students know how to learn at school, they'll also learn how to behave there as well.

Liberty Public Schools district leaders say Epic Elementary is beginning to share its teaching methods. Instructors from other schools in Liberty often attend class at Epic, and take what they observe back to their own classrooms.