Here's an itinerary of our time spent in Fergus Falls this past Tuesday as part of our Road to Success statewide tour:
- Tour Ashby Public School (about 25 minutes outside of Fergus Falls).
- Visit Prairie Wetlands Learning Center with Cleveland Elementary School (Fergus Falls Public Schools).
- Host lunch with community and school leaders.
- Meet with Otter Tail Power to discuss workforce development.
- Return to Ashby to meet with teachers.
Here are some initial takeaways:
- At Ashby, Shane (the principal) emphasized attention to detail on each individual student lending to the school's growth in student achievement. He continued that this has been made possible via the school board giving teachers more flexibility and resources to collaborate on interventions and differentiated learning, better review and analysis of assessment data, scaling up pre-K programs, and adopting a culture of no excuses for student achievement.
- The Prairie Wetlands Learning Center is a unique partnership between the schools, the city and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We witnessed several dozen students experience math and science in the fields and on the prairie for about one-third of their school day. This isn't a field trip–the fourth and fifth graders experience this every day in the academic year. At the Center, teachers promote participatory, experiential and hands-on learning.
- Over lunch, we connected with the mayor, director of the local economic development cooperation, our MinneMinds partner and West Central Initiative representative Nancy Jost, the United Way, the superintendent, our board member and Breckenridge resident Vernae Hasbargen, among others. We discussed what's working well for area public schools and how state policy might better support local public education.
- At Otter Tail Power, one of the larger companies in Fergus Falls, we delved into a lengthy conversation with the VP of Customer Service on college and career readiness. He explained that 70 percent of area jobs don't require a four-year post-secondary degree, so we need to rethink how we promote college readiness. He continued that better including engineering, accounting and technical skill training in high school will lend to a better equipped emerging workforce.
- Back at Ashby, teachers urged for more flexibility in how their high school students meet math and science standards. One teacher underscored that as a small school they engage with and track students across the continuum really well because they work with them for several years–lending to effective interventions and more meaningful, individualized enrichment.
Above, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife explain how they supplement teacher instruction at Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.
Above, Superintendent Jerry Ness, stresses the need to strengthen vocational education during our lunch with community leaders.
Chip, a teacher from Ashby and pictured above, spoke about the school's work to engage each student on an individual level. He also emphasized wanting flexibility in how they teach students math and science.