Osseo Area School Board approves state-mandated priority work

The Osseo Area School Board approved its 2017-2018 priority work statements May 16.
The district is required by the Minnesota Department of Education to adopt priority statements and continue certain aspects of priority work. Other priorities are locally recommended by the superintendent and approved by the board.
The 2017-2018 statements were approved in a 5-1 vote, with Boardmember Mike Ostaffe casting the sole dissenting vote.
Priority work such as increased performance on standardized testing is state mandated. Some of the district’s priority work is a continuation of previously approved priorities that have not yet been accomplished. Other work is new to the upcoming school year.
The following statements were approved for the category of equitable student achievement: all sites will engage in the use of culturally responsive instructional strategies; at every elementary site, student outcomes and measurements of achievement will be aligned and pre-K will be integrated into all school processes; all sites will implement culturally responsive, research-based positive behavior intervention practices that include the use of trauma-informed and restrictive practices; all sites will implement best practices for multilingual learners; students will experience learning that is personalized through the increased use of digital tools; middle schools will continue to engage in site-specific, ongoing assessment for program involvement focused on the 16 characteristics of effective middle schools as defined by the Association for Middle Level Education.
The district will prioritize developing system-wide plans to support customer service, and to “engage and empower families to support their student(s).”
Again this upcoming year, the district will focus on recruitment and retention strategies to build a workforce that reflects the student demographics, and will identify and respond to the influence of race and culture on learning.
Implementing the district’s recently adopted Enrollment and Capacity Management Framework will also be a priority this upcoming school year.
Ostaffe said other priorities needed to be included in the priority work statements. The district needs to specifically focus on bringing back students who have left to attend schools in other districts, he said.
“We’ve lost far too many students to our competitors,” he said. “We’re sending kids everywhere. We don’t have a lot of them coming in.”
Curriculum development and delivery need to be the district’s first priority, particularly in regards to technical education, Ostaffe said.
“Trade-skilled jobs are going wanting across the entire country and certainly in this area, and we’re not necessarily preparing our students for that,” he said.
Students should leave high school prepared to enter the workforce without college being necessary, and the district has too heavy a focus on college readiness rather than career readiness, he said.
Boardmember Robert Gerhart said he shared some of Ostaffe’s concerns regarding the focus on college readiness.
“One of my deepest concerns is when we talk about career and college readiness, there’s a real emphasis on college and not such an emphasis on career,” he said.
“Student debt is a real tangible problem but I think, to get to a more core level, what I’m concerned about, is if we have students that know they’re not cut out for college … or maybe the money just isn’t there … if we orient our schools around the idea of college readiness or career readiness … suddenly the school experience becomes more irrelevant to them,” Gerhart added.
The district needs more detailed data on the educational achievement of students who use digital learning tools, Ostaffe said.
Boardmember Jessica Craig said Ostaffe brought up valid points, but this particular work addresses the state’s World’s Best Workforce legislation and is not the only work the district is doing.
Boardmember Heather Douglass said she was concerned about language regarding increased use of digital learning tools, as it is not clear how increased screen time can effect a child’s health and development.
Superintendent Kate Maguire said the phrase “increased use” does not necessarily mean increased daily screen time for any particular student, but rather reaching more students with digital learning tools and providing consistent use of digital learning tools by teachers across the district.
It is difficult to isolate any specific district action and connect it to student achievement, Maguire said.

Contact Kevin Miller at [email protected]