An unorthodox, almost experimental approach to learning is paying off for one rural school. Leaders said the proof is in their student's test scores.
While identifying new pathways to learning is a battle all students and educators face, one school in Sevier County is going out on a limb and trying something new.
Catlettsburg Elementary is Sevier County's newest school and one of the fastest growing. Principal Jerry Wear said there is one main reason why.
"Our percentage of gains, is really done well over the past few years, and we've seen as much as 46% increase in some grade levels," said Wear.
Together Wear and his staff are introducing a different kind of program to their classroom. The program is aimed at improving grades in one of the state's most important scrutinized subjects, math.
Sara Rawlinson teaches eighth grade math. She has been at Catlettsburg from day one and helped develop what the school calls, the "Independent Achievement Program."
"Asking them what they know and knowing what they know are two different things - if you asked them what they need help in , Oh nothing - I don't need help in anything," explained Rawlinson.
Each Catlettsburg student is tested on the state and local level multiple times throughout the year. Then one by one teachers identify the kids' strengths and weaknesses and place them in classes with no more than 15 students.
"It's hard to do that for every single one of your students, but if you put the time, I think it's going to pay off in the end and I think we saw that last and we're seeing it this year," said Rawlinson.
Part of the small group experience includes students teaching one another as their adult teacher watches over them.
"Sometimes if they hear it from a student, it's not as intimidating as from a teacher and so that's pretty much what we've done so far and it's worked," explained Rawlinson.
"If we have accountability and we're helping each other out - it helps us get higher in our grades with everything that we do.We're about to go into high school - and we want to be like high in our grades and be able to do really good in life so it starts now," explained eighth grade student Sawyer Lambdin.
The teachers at Catlettsburg said that is exactly what they want for their students, solid academics, personal drive and confidence.
"Once we tell them that we believe in them - they can go out and believe in themselves and hopefully as adults when they have children, that will continue to pass on," said Rawlinson.