When the flexible learning year (FLY) consortium submitted its application to continue its initiative for another three years, it requested a decision from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) by mid-March.
In a letter from Brenda Cassellius, MDE commissioner, dated March 18 that decision had been made.
The letter approving the application for the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years was presented to the Redwood Area Board of Education at its meeting this past Monday, and with it the local school district can proceed with a 2013-14 school year start date of Aug. 19.
“The Minnesota Department of Education continues to encourage school districts to find meaningful ways to expand learning time both inside of the regular school day and through out-of-school time initiatives,” wrote Cassellius.
What began three school years ago with 25 school districts has been altered, as three school districts voted not to continue with the FLY initiative. The other 22 are going to proceed with the program to help meet the MDE goal of closing the achievement gap through a variety of efforts, such as consortium-wide teacher collaboration, as well as best utilizing those additional days of the school year in advance of standardized testing to provide students with the time they need to best learn and prepare to take those tests.
According to Darcy Josephson, RASD director of teaching and learning, MDE officials specifically addressed progress made during the first three years of FLY.
“They expressed how much they were impressed with the amount of progress we made in collaboration during the first three years,” Josephson said.
That collaboration through professional learning communities is going to be a continued focus for the next three years of FLY, added Josephson.
Although three school districts opted not to continue with the FLY initiative, the department of education did not appear to be concerned about that, as it was not addressed during the application process.
Rick Ellingworth, RASD superintendent, said all of the input the public provided at public hearings was included with the applications, and all of that input was taken into consideration as MDE made its decision.
Josephson said each district has established goals to measure progress over the next three years as they strive to improve especially reading and math skills for all students.
“Our focus is going to continue to be what provides the most benefit for the students,” said Ellingworth.