A progress report at the midpoint of a great school year

It seems like yesterday we were welcoming our staff and a record number of students back for the start of a new school year. It’s hard to believe that we’re now at the midpoint of the school year. Our students and staff have already accomplished so much this year, and there is still much to look forward to.

Jeff Ronneberg

Jeff Ronneberg

If you live or work within the Spring Lake Park School District boundaries, you should have recently received – or will soon – the newest issue of our Connections newsletter which provides a sampling of recent news as well as what’s on the horizon. I’ll summarize a few of these; additional details and other news can be found on our website.

It’s been a busy, successful, fast-paced year so far, with a few key initiates at the forefront of our efforts and results.

1:1 Digital Learning Initiative

In late September, we began phasing in our long-planned, much-anticipated 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative.

This plan puts iPads and iPod Touches in the hands of each of our learners by the end of February 2013, with a goal of substantially improving student engagement, personalizing learning and ensuring equitable technology access for all students, while introducing the concept of “24/7” learning.

The first few months alone have already provided a glimpse of the endless possibilities for personalization and the transformative nature of combining quality technology with quality instruction. Some comments from our enthusiastic staff:

“In just a short amount of time, this initiative has brought real and lasting change to the way that teachers guide and reach each student in their classrooms.”

“Teachers are putting greater responsibility on students to structure their learning activities and there is an increase in creativity and personalization within each learning experience.”

During the extended Martin Luther King Jr. weekend break for students last week, staff participated in various learning opportunities including a day-and-a-half of intensive technology training for 260 teachers. Photo submitted

During the extended Martin Luther King Jr. weekend break for students last week, staff participated in various learning opportunities including a day-and-a-half of intensive technology training for 260 teachers. Photo submitted

“Teachers are finding new, creative and effective ways for students to demonstrate their learning by creating thoughtful, published projects that were not possible before iPads entered the classroom.”

“Students have found a renewed relevance in their learning experiences, and teachers have embraced this opportunity to engage and challenge every student every day.”

“Truly transformative instruction has been taking place and these devices have quickly become crucial learning tools in the classroom.”

College Readiness Initiative

Progress with our College Readiness Initiative proceeds on many fronts. In the Spring Lake Park School District, being college-ready means working to ensure that each student has had the preparation necessary to successfully attend a two-year or four-year college, which also prepares them to successfully transition to the military or a career of choice.

We’re nearing completion of our own unique College and Career Readiness Continuum which will clearly and precisely communicate with students, families and the community what it means to be college-ready. It will identify specific achievement benchmarks students need to meet as they progress through the grades. It will also provide a clear set of targets so that teachers, students and their parents are able to clearly assess student readiness for college – at all ages and levels – as well as identify areas needed for development and enrichment.

There will be three pathways:

• A Core Pathway for the majority, often defined as students in the middle;

• an Advanced Pathway that has traditionally been associated with college preparatory courses;

• and an Accelerated Support Pathway that will provide support for struggling students with the goal of accelerating their learning, opening new doors and increasing opportunities.

Ultimately, we want each student to be in the position to select their next step beyond high school, which will require an essential and defined set of academic, career and life skills.

K-12 Master Facilities and Programming Study

On Dec. 18, the school board endorsed a plan to address the district’s enrollment increases over the past few years, 20 percent projected enrollment increase over the next 10 years and our near-capacity facilities. This plan is the result of a K-3 boundary study begun two years ago that evolved into a K-12 Master Facilities and Programming Study which included a 10-year enrollment study and capacity analysis of every space in every school. Subsequently, we identified, shared with the public and the school board endorsed plans for the near-term, intermediate-term and long-term, beginning with changes required for the coming school year.

Near-term plans for fall 2013 include classrooms additions to Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, classroom additions and site work at Park Terrace Elementary in Spring Lake Park, relocating the students and staff of Woodcrest Elementary in Fridley to an expanded Park Terrace and relocating the K-3 Spanish Immersion program which has been temporarily housed at Westwood Intermediate School to a more permanent location at Woodcrest as a K-4 program in 2013-14 and a K-5 program thereafter.

Further details about these plans are available at SpringLakeParkSchools.org. In the coming weeks and months, updates will be provided on transition planning including managing student moves to new schools, placement of center-based programs, staffing, as well as a review of K-12 transportation effectiveness and efficiencies as a result of student growth.

Good news about great staff and students, schools and programs

There’s a lot of good news about our great students and staff taking place all the time. As an example, earlier this week the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) announced that that Westwood Intermediate School was chosen as one of a select number of state “Celebration Schools” for improving student achievement. In a letter to the school, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said: “Your selection is a direct reflection of the gains your school has made and the tireless efforts you and your staff have directed toward improving outcomes for your student.”

Visit SpringLakeParkSchools.org to learn more great stories – we’re constantly updating news about our pride in educational excellence.

Learn more

The first week of February brings additional opportunities to learn more about our schools and programs for 2013-14. Our kindergarten information nights are Feb. 4, 5 and 7. Our annual information and enrollment open house is Feb. 7. It’s a friendly, informal event for those new to the area, considering enrolling or just wanting to learn more. I’ll be there as will our school principals and representatives from our innovative programs and initiatives. We look forward to visiting and answering your questions. Stop by anytime between 6 and 7:30 pm at the District Services Center, 1415 81st Ave. N.E., Spring Lake Park.

As always, I encourage you to support our students. Our website has a calendar of upcoming athletic events, plays, concerts and more. You’ll have a great time and our students and staff will appreciate your encouragement and interest.

Jeff Ronneberg is the superintendent of the Spring Lake Park School District.

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