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Learning Checkpoints to Help District 196 Students With College, Careers

By the time they reach graduation, all District 196 students should be prepared to continue their education or pursue a career.

Editor's note: The following is a column by Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan School District 196 Superintendent Jane K. Berenz.

Graduating from high school is a significant milestone in every person's life. It represents the culmination of an E-12 career made up of countless memories, incredible people and significant achievements along each child's path. By the time they reach graduation, all District 196 students should be prepared to continue their education or pursue a career. College and career ready. That is the hope of every parent and our goal for every child. It is the product of what we do.

As parents, it is natural to chart our children's progress year-to-year, grade-to-grade, school picture-to-school picture. More important, though, are the critical learning checkpoints students encounter along the way. For example, how well are students reading by the time they reach third grade? This statewide requirement was added by the Legislature last year. Students who meet and exceed the standard pass this learning checkpoint and are on track with their reading skills. Those who fall short receive timely and focused academic interventions to hone the reading skills they will need to be successful. These students keep moving forward, but with assistance and instruction focused on their specific literacy needs. Calendar changes being implemented this year are giving teachers more time on a regular basis to intervene with students having difficulty, review assessment data and adjust their instruction based on the data and what it says about each student's needs.

The learning checkpoints already exist; the task is identifying the right combination to focus on. Before each child enters kindergarten they must complete a required preschool screening and, beginning this year, they take a summer literacy assessment administered by their teacher. At the other end of the timeline, high school students take state tests in reading and writing that require a passing score to graduate. In the years between, there are many more of these measures that could serve as learning checkpoints to determine if students are on track with particular skills throughout their E-12 career.

As a district, we have begun the process of identifying the skills needed at each level to ensure we are preparing graduates who are college and career ready. Once we pinpoint these along the timeline, we will review the measures already being used and determine which are the best indicators of future success. These will become our learning checkpoints to ensuring college and career-ready graduates in District 196.

Our renewed focus on ensuring college and career-ready graduates grew out of the strategic planning process that a group of 60 district citizens, School Board members and staff underwent in summer 2011. This group reviewed where the district had been and where we were at, but more importantly we discussed where our district needed to be headed in order to ensure high levels of learning, opportunity and expectation at every school, in every classroom, with every student. As a result, our work is focused on the four strategic areas of teaching and learning, early education, educational equity and partnerships. The process of identifying and then implementing our learning checkpoints will likely touch all four strategic areas. We will keep you posted on our progress.

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