Column: Flexible learning year moving forwardWORTHINGTON — Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren approved the applications of 25 school districts in southwestern Minnesota for a flexible learning year beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.
By: John Landgaard, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren approved the applications of 25 school districts in southwestern Minnesota for a flexible learning year beginning with the 2010-2011 school year. The schools joined together in their application and will share a common school calendar that also involves the Minnesota State College and University (MNSCU) schools in their region.
The Department of Education approved the proposal with the requirement that the districts submit an annual report detailing how the calendar modification, professional learning communities and other inter-district enhancements lead to increases in teacher effectiveness and meaningful gains in student achievement. The flexible learning year program is approved for three school years and will be reviewed annually.
“This new school calendar will facilitate greater inter-district collaboration in southwestern Minnesota and should strengthen teacher effectiveness and play a critical role in increasing student performance,” said Commissioner Seagren. “The common calendar will allow these districts to pool resources and join together for teacher professional development opportunities with each other and with their MNSCU partners in the region.”
The Department also required the districts to provide at least as many annual instructional hours in the 2010-2011 school year as were scheduled for the 2009-2010 school year.
The flexible learning year application is a topic at the State Capitol for some of the legislators that view this as a negative for the resort industry and the State Fair. Currently, any bills introduced have not been moved forward through the committee process and are not scheduled to be a part of the final bill. We do hope that the legislature realizes that this process has been in place for a number of years and is currently working, as well as this being a local control issue and not a State legislative issue.
The school board will be addressing calendars for the upcoming three years at the April school board meeting and will look for approval of the calendars in May. This will establish the calendars and District’s 518’s commitment to the flexible learning year plan.
Secondly, District 518 will be looking for input from students, parents, teachers, support staff, community and businesses. A survey is being developed to gather input on administrators, directors and coordinators of the district related to job performance. This survey will provide an opportunity for feedback related to areas and skills that have been exhibited by the individuals as part of their positions. You will have the opportunity to provide input on 16 different individuals, or you may choose to only provide input on those that you feel appropriate or able to provide quality responses. We would encourage respondents to be respectful of the individuals and respond to the survey in an objective approach rather than an emotional approach. This will allow for the development of professional growth by each of the individuals being evaluated.
This survey will be available in the next few weeks through an electronic survey only and will have an open time to respond for approximately two weeks. We will also be encouraging those that work most closely with those being reviewed to respond during this time in order to ensure that we have at least fifty responses for each person. This survey is being used as an individual growth tool for administrators, directors and coordinators of the district. If successful, this tool may be expanded for other employees of the district in order to assist in continuous improvement by District 518.
Please watch for further information on the survey in the coming weeks and the information should direct you to the Web site that will allow for your input. We would like to thank you in advance for your assistance and cooperation in providing this feedback. If you have questions, please feel free to contact the District Office at 372-2172. Thank you for supporting District 518 in providing a quality education for all students.
John Landgaard is District 518 superintendent.