Grantee Corner  |  Texarkana Arkansas School District

A male student and a female student work on a tabletop robot
Arkansas High school students build prototype robots for competition

Three students play flute, keyboards, and violin for four other students
College Hill Academy of Design students perform for their peers

Two students read books in a library
College Hill Academy of Design students read in the media center

A female student uses a laptop and a calculator
North Heights Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy student uses technology to solve real-world mathematics problems

Three students sit together and use laptops and a calculator
North Heights Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy students collaborate to solve STEM challenges

Students sit outside on red metal picnic tables
Arkansas High School students visit in the quad

A group of students walk down a hallway toward the camera
Arkansas High School Students head to class

Students sit in a classroom with a computer at each desk
Arkansas High School students participate in digital learning classes

A female student stands in front of greenery and takes a photo of the photographer
Arkansas High School student completes an AP Photography project

Robin Hickerson, TASD Project Director

Located between Little Rock, Hot Springs, Shreveport, and Dallas, Texarkana is on the border between Texas and Arkansas. Texarkana Arkansas School District (TASD) serves approximately 4,200 students in five elementary schools, one middle school, one junior high school, one high school, an alternative school, and an early childhood learning center. TASD is committed to providing innovative opportunities for all students; recruiting and retaining diverse students and staff; and creating collaborative partnerships with educators, parents, and community members. 

The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant funds the TASD Montage Project. The Project builds on the district’s successful science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) magnet elementary schools to create a K-12 STEM pathway at the district’s three secondary schools: College Hill Middle School, North Heights Entrepreneurial Leadership School, and Arkansas High School. The Texarkana Montage Project offers middle through high school students leadership development; personalized learning; and rigorous and dynamic academic experiences that use project-based learning in hands-on, high-tech environments. The grant project seeks to achieve STEM certification at the three project schools and to achieve excellence in daily operations with the goal of recruiting students to the school district. 

The TASD Montage Project enables students to become innovators through 21st century school environments that are collaborative, diverse, and student-centered. Partnerships with the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, Junior League of Texarkana, Arkansas Leadership Academy, Buck Institute for Education, University of Arkansas-Texarkana, Texarkana College, Texas A&M-Texarkana, Texarkana Arkansas Police Department, College Board, and Southern Arkansas University provide a wealth of community support to help the district address learning goals, individual student wellness, and economic needs in the greater Texarkana area.

MSAP funding supports professional development that enhances and sustains high teacher performance and provides students equitable access to quality educational programs. Professional learning topics focus on innovative instructional methods and research-based practices to promote diversity and strengthen students’ knowledge and skills. These topics include cultural competency, STEM, project-based learning, Leader in Me, and Project Lead the Way. 

At College Hill Middle School, students find their voices to become innovative leaders through daily Leader in Me activities. All students receive instruction in design, coding, and robotics through an interactive and engaging curriculum that provides 21st century creative, critical thinking, and social skills. Technology-rich classes enhance core content learning by providing project-based learning skills. In addition, pre-advanced placement (AP) and advanced coursework are offered in grade 6 to help prepare students for AP courses in junior high and high school. 

North Heights Entrepreneurial Leadership School is a technology-enhanced junior high school that emphasizes project-based learning through STEM and the arts. This Leader in Me school prepares globally minded future leaders in an atmosphere that encourages artistic development and instills the seven traits for entrepreneurial leadership. Students work in an adult-facilitated community of learners while they learn to collaborate and emerge as young entrepreneurs. The school infuses creativity, innovation, and sound science, math, engineering, and financial literacy into the curriculum, and offers seven high school credits, pre-AP and advanced coursework, and over 20 clubs. 

Arkansas High School is the newest magnet school in TASD, and has the highest college readiness index in the region. Arkansas High School is among 1,000 schools worldwide that were selected to participate in the College Board Pre-AP Program, which gives all students the opportunity to learn the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful in AP and other college-level coursework. Through community and industry partnerships and internships, students can experience experts, guest speakers, and jobs and careers that connect to STEM fields and the arts. The individualized and interdisciplinary project-based learning and rigorous mathematics, literacy, and science instruction make student learning accessible in meaningful ways and promote critical thinking, reasoning, and understanding. 

Robin Hickerson, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education, serves as the MSAP Project Director. Ms. Hickerson has spent her entire career working in schools with high poverty rates and diverse student populations. Her previous experience includes being the principal of Arkansas High School and of College Hill Middle School. Ms. Hickerson has earned many honors as a classroom teacher and administrator. She is a National Distinguished Principal, and was honored as an Administrator Who Makes a Difference by the Arkansas Middle Level Association in 2006. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas A&M University-Texarkana. She is a graduate of the Arkansas Master Principal Program and Leadership Texarkana. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree from Texas A&M University, Texarkana.