After seeing its initial proposal rejected by the Minnesota Department of Education earlier this year, a group of superintendents and other school leaders have been meeting to talk about its next steps in developing a flexible learning year proposal that would meet with the approval of the education department.


That proposal was presented this past Monday to the Redwood Area Board of Education by RASD Superintendent Rick Ellingworth.


 


After seeing its initial proposal rejected by the Minnesota Department of Education earlier this year, a group of superintendents and other school leaders have been meeting to talk about its next steps in developing a flexible learning year proposal that would meet with the approval of the education department.

That proposal was presented this past Monday to the Redwood Area Board of Education by RASD Superintendent Rick Ellingworth.

Although the basic premise of the proposal remains the same, there have been some changes to help address concerns the department had with that initial proposal.

The concept as presented would have the upcoming school year start prior to the post Labor Day beginning required as part of current state law.

Those days prior to the Labor Day start have been deemed high impact learning days under the proposal. The premise behind the change in the calendar from its traditional start date is that students who have more days prior to standardized testing assessments are going to have more success.

As part of the new proposal, the schools involved have outlined a plan that would focus on student achievement and would create ways to quantify that over the three years of the proposal.

One of the proposals would be to set a goal based on what Ellingworth called the index rate, which measures school districts as a whole using the results of standardized tests. Using the index rate concept schools receive points based on the level of proficiency on the assessments administered. The more students deemed proficient the more points the school receives.

In addition to quantifying results, Elling-worth said the plan would allow for school districts to collaborate on staff development through having similar staff development days.

During those days schools could come together to work on common areas of need helping to not only bring out better training opportunities but also to help schools save money by pooling resources.

Ellingworth said the proposal would also develop learning communities amongst all of the school districts through which staff with common needs could come together.

For example a learning community could be created among the art teachers in all 25 schools involved.

That way, the teachers could use each other as resources in sharing ideas and could bring out training specific to their subject area. A trainer is not going to come out to talk with a single art teacher in a school district, but they would come out to work with a larger group.

Board member Kevin Passe raised some concern about the learning communities adding they are something that can’t be forced on staff. It is a concept where those involved have to buy into them for them to work as intended.

Ellingworth said if schools imbed the learning communities into the school day for the teachers it creates more of an incentive to get more involved.

As was the case with the previous proposal, the school districts involved would each have to approve the plan and would have to conduct hearings for the public to allow them to express their opinions on the concept.

Ellingworth said the group has been working with the department of education to ensure it is a plan the department would consider.

That doesn’t mean when the group submits the proposal it is going to be accepted.

The plan would also align its scheduling with colleges in the region and would create a semester ending at the holiday break.

Currently, many schools do not finish the first semester until several days into January. The new proposal would create a more practical break at Christmas.

By consensus, the board approved moving forward with the proposal. Board member Jim Buckley called the idea a no brainer saying it truly benefits students, not adults.

The hope is to have the proposal in the hands of the education department in February with its acceptance or rejection coming in mid March which provides more time to move forward and plan for the coming year should the proposal be accepted.

The board is going to continue receiving up-dates at upcoming board meetings.