BY KELLY JOHNSON
The Anoka-Hennepin School Board has given its approval to $4.4 million in strategic investments to benefit students throughout the district.
Funding for the projects comes from the fiscal year 2013 budget through the use of reserve funds. Much of these dollars are the result of cost saving measures implemented in the district over the last several years, including the closing of schools.
"This is not just money that fell from the sky," said Superintendent Dennis Carlson. "It’s years of hard work."
"None of this is by accident."
The most recent projects given approval by the school board May 21 are in addition to those already approved, including an expansion of the all day, every day kindergarten program.
At the elementary school level, the fifth-grade pre-algebra pilot program will be expanded to support the district’s high ability math students.
According to Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent of elementary education, this course provides solid foundational algebra skills, increasing the percentage of students successful in advanced math courses in middle and high school.
In addition, the fourth- and fifth-grade prep paraprofessionals will be replaced with a licensed teacher, which would allow additional time in the schools to support literacy programs.
At the middle school level, Project Lead The Way will be implemented.
Project Lead the Way engages students in hands-on activities, projects and problem-based learnings. Students create, design, build, discover, collaborate and solve problems while applying what they learn in math and science.
According to Ginger Gustafson, associate superintendent of middle schools, Project Lead the Way is a leader in providing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming. These will allow the addition of elective programs in five middle schools and expansion in one middle school.
Additionally at the middle school level, the Naviance Program, which helps schools and districts use data to promote, measure and improve college and career readiness, will be implemented.
An assistant director of curriculum, assessment and instruction with a PreK-16 focus will be added.
"It’s a resource support," Gustafson said.
At the high school level, an online learning program will be designed for the creation of an online high school.
"We expect improved engagement and success for students who are drawn to this learning style," said Jeff McGonigal, associate superintendent of high schools.
The Naviance Program, similar to the middle school program, will also be implemented at the high school.
"We will have most or all students planning for post high school success and building the high school program to that end," McGonigal said.
At Coon Rapids High School, a biomedical STEM program will be added.
According to information provided by McGonigal, Coon Rapids High School students do not have a STEM program and are losing a much higher proportion of top students to Blaine High School.
The AVID program, currently running at Coon Rapids and Champlin Park high schools, would be expanded to all five of the district’s high schools. AVID is a nationwide program that places students in advanced classes with rigorous curriculum. It is focused on closing the achievement gap and designed to help students succeed and prepare for college.
One of the main goals of AVID is to prepare students for the rigors of college.
"I think we’re going to see some great results," said School Boardmember John Hoffman about the strategic investments planned districtwide.
Other programs considered but in need of further funding or research include expanding the all day, every day kindergarten program to all district elementary schools; a comprehensive surveying system of staff, students and stakeholders; an electronic PAS system; the welcome center, providing a single point of entry for those seeking information about the district; and an expansion of the AVID program into the district’s middle schools.