Today marked our first stop in southern Minnesota, where we toured schools and spoke with community members and teachers in Redwood Falls and Morgan. These communities initially piqued our interest with their particular accomplishments with Native American and low-income student achievement. Following are some takeaways we wanted to post right away:
- Greater Minnesota schools, especially smaller districts, continue to ask for greater flexibility with teacher licensure. The superintendent of Redwood Falls schools, for example, said limitations with licensure are burdensome when staffing special education, science and world languages.
- Principals and teachers seem well-prepared for soon-to-come teacher evaluations. Both Redwood Falls and Morgan are lifting components of the new state model, but building in some local considerations that better fit their schedules, size, assessments (including teacher-generated assessments) and whatnot.
- Educators want flexibility as to how they meet science and math state standards–they also want more alignment between standards and assessments.
- Redwood Falls and Morgan (and most tour stop locations) are confused about the MinneMinds pre-K scholarship roll-out (i.e., most of the schools that we've visited are hearing from the Minnesota Department of Education that they're not eligible to receive scholarships so they'd like clarity as to why that is and what they can do to position themselves for eligibility in the future).
- They're more focused in their efforts to foster collaboration among teachers that directly feeds into classroom instruction. Some of this comes from Professional Learning Communities, but other schools are taking it to the next level. For example, at Cedar Mountain Secondary School in Morgan, the principal has assigned two effective teachers (one senior, one junior) to serve as peer coaches–providing real-time feedback to their colleagues on a daily basis and identifying ways to bring math and reading instruction into other subject areas (e.g., social studies and geography).
Tomorrow we'll be in Marshall and Tracy!