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Column: EDGE offering academic assistance -- and more

District 518 students are shown participating in the EDGE program. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
District 518 students are shown participating in the EDGE program. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

By Barry Fischer, District 518

WORTHINGTON — As the 2016-2017 academic school year completed its first month, Targeted Service kicked off the EDGE program in Prairie Elementary as well as Worthington Middle School. EDGE (Enrichment Directed towards Gaining and Extending knowledge) is an academic after-school program that consists of academic assistance for students along with enrichment activities. The program is free of charge and includes a snack and transportation home. EDGE runs Tuesdays and Thursdays though the first week of May for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The mission of Targeted Services is to close student achievement gap and prevent school dropout. The “achievement gap” is a reference to the difference in academic performance between the difference student groups. The achievement gap can show up in grades and standardized test scores with elementary and middle school students. Services are designed to help students be successful and to remain in traditional school. The focus of Targeted Services is on social/emotional/academic skill building and remediation. Targeted Services programming for students in kindergarten through eighth grade occurs on an extended day/extended year basis.

Students are referred to the EDGE program by classroom teachers. Students must meet the state-established criteria to qualify for services (Minnesota Statute 124D.68):

  • Consistently fails or struggles with classes
  • Has more hands-on learning style
  • Demonstrates low motivation, easily frustrated, sudden drop in grades, absenteeism, or class-room problems
  • Is below one or more grade levels in achievement
  • Is overwhelmed in classes with large numbers

Student activities will depend on each student's individual needs. A Continual Learning Plan (CLP) is written for each child, outlining the specific needs to be addressed. The EDGE teacher will work with the child's classroom teacher(s) to develop the CLP. Goals in the Continued Learning Plan could include help finishing assignments; improving in reading, math or writing skills; developing organizational skills; and learning of social skills. Direct instruction by licensed staff could be supplemented by educational computer programs which meet the student's needs.

EDGE has been fortunate to have the support of other groups this school year to support student learning. In the middle school, students have been learning more about foods and nutrition through the Health and Nutrition Program from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Another middle school group has been gaining enrichment on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through the Nobles County 4-H program. Students have been learning about levers, wheels and pulleys. These students will later build “Rube Goldberg” machines based on the knowledge they have gained.

Currently, we have 218 Prairie Elementary students and 184 middle school students enrolled in EDGE. Of those students, 85 percent are English Language Learners. Additional students do qualify for EDGE, but  we work hard to ensure a 1:15 teacher-to-student ratio. The EDGE program along with other programs through Targeted Services work to meet District 518 student achievement goals.

Barry Fischer is principal of District 518’s Area Learning Center.