The simple act of listening

I’ve had the opportunity over the last few weeks to sit and listen to some younger students as they read their most recent book to me. We meet on Friday mornings and the kids share the book that they’ve been practicing with all week. It’s been a reflective time for me as the act of carving out a few minutes from a busy day is rewarded with the sheer pleasure of a child reading out loud to you.You struggle alongside them as they sound their way through a tricky word……wanting to shout out the right answer…..watching the wheels turn as the search for the right pronunciation. With delight, they share the pictures on each page as they progress through the story. All of this takes place during a 10-15 minute time span. My job initially has been to be the targeted audience and I was chosen by my two readers as an adult on campus that they would like to read to. To uphold this honor has been an easy task. Both of my readers are eager to show off their “harder” book each week when we meet. I find myself becoming really focused on the not only the story but sometimes feel I can actually see the learning taking place. I’m truly the lucky one on this arrangement. I can’t wait until Friday!

Should we build a new 4/5 school?

Our local school district is experiencing a growth in enrollment at the elementary levels. This had led to larger than desired class sizes at almost every school. For the second time in two years the voters are being asked to support the cost of building another elementary school. The designed proposed would house all the districts 4th and 5th graders. This would keep the other neighborhood schools as K-3 buildings and provide space for other programs.
The design of a building for just 4/5 graders has mixed reviews. Some argue that the addition of another level creates an unnecessary transition or school change. While the new building plans to be broken down into smaller pods with certain academic focuses the sheer number of proposed kids (900) creates a more “Middle School” feel. Many students at the Middle School level start to feel like “a number” in schools of that size which impacts future learning and social relationships. Do we need to have kids start feeling that way at even younger ages?
Some feel that adding on to existing schools (which do have space) keeps kids from having that extra transition and keeps them at their home school longer.
In order for this process to go forward, both questions on the ballot need to pass. The first deals with the actual construction costs while the 2nd asks for money to run it after it opens. I’m not sure this is the best option right now for our community but then again my kid isn’t sitting in a classroom with 34 others.

Schoolcraft is a Reward School

Yesterday it was announced that Schoolcraft Learning Community was in the top 15% of all schools in the state that receive Title 1 funding. The determination is based upon several formulas connected with state testing. Several of the key pieces involve the amount of growth that your students show and the level of success that student s of color or that receive Special Education services attain. If these kids are close to or even exceed the scores of “white students then this is viewed as decreasing the ever talked about achievement gap.

While it’s certainly nice to get this honor it does bring up the question of how schools measure success. If we (or any) schools didn’t have these state required tests….how would we say we are growing? Schools where teachers/students/parents work hard every day and try their best should be considered award schools as well. Labeling schools that are or are not successful can create false impressions that the general public uses for decision making.

One possible solution would be to actually experience a school. What does the school feel like? How does that schools’ culture express itself to you as you mingle with kids or walk the hallways? What are the smells and sights you experience? How wide are the smiles or how any greetings come your way?

I like that my school has been designated a Reward School. It does give a level of validation of the work we do. I also like the great big smiles and the excitement of learning that young minds (and old) experience here daily. Formal label or not we are a school that provides many rewards to many people every day. Is it time to measure your school?

Schoolcraft is “On Target”

Schoolcraft Learning Community was notified in February that we are meeting the expectations created by the Minnesota Department of Education to decrease the achievement gap that exists in many schools across the state. Only 39% of all school districts in the state are meeting this goal in Math and 43% are meeting these goals in Reading. The over all goal is part of the No Child Left Behind formula process that all school districts need to show progress in by the year 2017. The only other school districts to be “On Target” in our area were Trek North Junior/Senior High and Blackduck.

EdCamp comes to Bemidji

We are excited to announce the inaugural EdCamp Bemidji will be

held at Bemidji State University on March 1, 2014. This event will bring

together nearly 100 of northern Minnesota’s most innovative

educators for a day of passion-driven learning.

The EdCamp movement was started by educators with the purpose of

bringing teachers together to talk about the teaching and learning

that takes place in their classrooms. At EdCamp every participant is

free to facilitate a conversation, offer to teach other participants  or

request help with a particular topic or conversation.

When you sponsor EdCamp Bemidji, you help the education

community in a very direct and visible way. This entire event is run by

volunteers and funded by donations.  We invite all members of a school community

to join the fun by signing up on the link below. Those wishing to help sponsor this event by

sharing your product with those at EdCamp Bemidji may also sign up. Questions or

comments may be sent to edcampbemidji@gmail.com.

Charter Schools continue to grow

St. Paul and Minneapolis have joined a growing list of cities where at least one fifth of all public school students attend charters. Currently there are 44,000 students in Minnesota enrolled in Charter Schools which is up by roughly 3,000 more than last year.

Charter School growth as been associated with schools because of specialized programs such as Arts to Montessori to language immersion. What we hear from parents is that they are looking for something distinctive. While the majority of students still attend traditional school districts it seems apparent that communities that do offer several educational choices are finding success not only for themselves but mostly importantly their children.

Student led Conferences

The month of November finds many schools holding the first of several parent/teacher conferences. Parents attend to find out how their child is doing in school and have a chance to visit with the teacher. Many times the process is rushed and parents leave feeling dissatisfied.

A growing trend in education is the student led conference. Preparation is the key to the success of these conferences as students take responsibility for their own learning. At Schoolcraft Learning Community, even Kindergarten students are preparing for the soon to be held conferences. As an Expeditionary school, these conferences are an important part of our curricular model. Students share their successes, reflect on their challenges and are given an opportunity for feedback. Student led conferences build connections, confidence and relationships.