Get to know 5 goals of A.L. School District

Published 10:21 am Thursday, October 11, 2012

Column: Linda Laurie, Guest Column

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time: new pencils, notebooks, folders and crayons. A few weeks ago Michelle Obama welcomed kids back to another year of “learning, discovery, hard work and fun.” It is a time for new friendships, learning opportunities, setting goals and fulfilling accomplishments.

Linda Laurie

Working through the district administration, the Albert Lea school board attempts to maximize the opportunities for success of every student. Quality instruction from caring teachers is the ingredient for realizing this goal. At a recent Albert Lea school board meeting, the board approved five academic goals to facilitate academic growth and achievement:

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1. As a district, the percent of students meeting and exceeding proficiency in the MCAs and GRAD writing will surpass state averages.

2. As a district, the expected growth for all students will improve the state’s rates as measured by the MCAs.

3. At the elementary level, 80 percent of students will meet or exceed benchmark targets (fall, winter and spring) in math and reading.

4. At the high school level, ACT scores will exceed state averages.

5. At the high school level, 90 percent of students will graduate with their ninth-grade peers.

We have several programs to meet these academic goals. An integral component of our Albert Lea School District’s staff development is the Professional Learning Community, or PLC, model. All staff members meet weekly for 45 minutes in a PLC. These learning teams, organized according to grade levels or curricular areas, work collectively to look at student data, respond to student needs and achieve common goals.

During the weekly meetings, as well as in all staff development opportunities, educators focus their work on four critical questions:

1. What do we want our students to learn?

2. How will we know when they have learned it?

3. How will we respond when they have not learned?

4. How we will respond when they already know?

The PLC model is successful in providing the necessary time for educators to collaborate, share expertise and strengthen the capacity to analyze, plan, implement, support and evaluate their practice that ultimately leads to increased student achievement.

The integration program enters its third year in collaboration with our partners in Austin, Hayfield, Southland and Lyle. The key goals of the program are to increase student achievement, especially within groups of students where achievement gaps are identified, and to increase student interaction across the districts. The program initiatives to work on these goals include bilingual success coaches in each school, equity leader and teams in each school, after school academy opportunities at the elementary schools and Southwest Middle School, a cultural awareness class at Southwest, cultural outreach in the community and staff development.

Our district’s Gifted and Talent Development Program focuses on goals set by the National Association for Gifted Children. The opportunities created for our students strive to meet the needs of our students with unique academic needs by providing challenging educational programs and services to assist them reach their full potential.

Students identified as having specific academic strength in third- through fifth-grades have the opportunity to receive additional instruction during the school day. Pull-out groups at the elementary level, and a class at the middle school, are instructed by the Gifted and Talent Development coordinator or Gifted and Talented teacher, using materials and activities that foster the development of critical, abstract and creative thinking.

Chess clubs will again be offered at the four elementary schools, Southwest and Albert Lea High School. DestiNation Imagination, a program that teaches creative problem-solving strategies involving technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, structural and service-learning themes, was a highly successful opportunity last year and will continue this year.

Additional electives are offered, including Math Masters, a spelling bee, science fair, geography bee, Young Authors/Young Artists, History Day and robotics club.

At the forefront of all programming is our district’s focus on student learning and providing resources with a strong research base that best meets our students’ needs.

As a parent and school board member, I know how important and fleeting these school years are. I encourage everyone to participate in our school community. Please attend school-sponsored events, concerts, plays, musicals, sporting events and the many other exciting activities in the district.


Linda Laurie is the chairwoman of the Albert Lea school board.