Programming to Improve Student Achievement
The following plans, programs and initiatives all support the achievement of the Westonka Public Schools Strategic Plan:
Secondary Rigor/Relevance Framework
In Westonka, we believe that all children possess their own unique gifts and skills. We also know that effectively preparing students for education and career opportunities after high school requires educators and parents to understand the changes occurring within our workforce, economy and society. It also requires students to develop different skills than were required of past generations.
We want our students to become intrinsically motivated to learn versus learning out of compliance. This will provide our students opportunities to become more engaged, committed, focused, independent and prepared for college, career and life.
During their time attending Westonka schools, each student needs to be challenged academically, develop strong critical thinking skills, apply their learning to new situations, communicate effectively, be deeply engaged with their learning and become technologically literate. Westonka Public Schools is addressing these needs by transforming how students learn and how curriculum is delivered.
Through the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) Rigor/Relevance Framework at the middle school and high school, our aim is to increase student ownership and engagement with learning and raise achievement by providing instruction that addresses students' academic needs and providing options for how students learn and how they demonstrate mastery of concepts.
The Rigor/Relevance Framework focuses on rigor, relevance of learning to the real-world and student engagement with their learning. The Framework's goals include:
- Support deeper learning by students.
- Find ways to accelerate learning and provide time/space for learning that the current system does not allow.
- Help students develop skills to take ownership of their learning and develop a solid preparation for post-high school education and career opportunites.
Elementary Literacy Focus
At the K-4 elementary level, the district has implemented a strong literacy program that addresses students’ development of reading skills, reading fluency, comprehension skills and writing skills. Of particular emphasis is the implementation of Orton-Gillingham based instruction using the Sonday System, which provides research-based and proven multisensory phonics instruction for all Kindergarten through grade 4 students. This program aligned with the district’s FastBridge Assessment System provides teachers with the specific data on students’ skills attainment and gaps to ensure all students are learning to their full potential. See the following website for more information on this instructional approach: https://www.winsorlearning.com/research
GATES Program/Advanced Course Offerings
At the K-4 elementary level, the district has put in place a gifted and talented program for students ready for challenging and rigorous academic experiences. Students that meet criteria are invited to participate in the Gifted and Talented Education Services (GATES) program. Formal identification of students begins in second grade. The identification process uses objective assessment data, including CoGat and FastBridge assessment results, with clear benchmarks for qualification for gifted and talented services.
At the middle and high school levels, advanced/enriched courses in language arts, math and science are available. In addition, the high school offers 14 Advanced Placement courses, two College in the Schools Spanish courses and four Project Lead the Way engineering courses. Rigorous advanced courses are open to all students, with certain courses having prerequisites and others using standardized test results from CoGat, NWEA and/or MCA to inform parents and students of the student's level of preparedness to be successful in a particular class.
Acceleration and Early Entrance to Kindergarten
For students that may qualify for grade-level acceleration or early entrance to kindergarten, the district follows a specific protocol and criteria to determine the best course of action for the child. The acceleration and entrance to kindergarten procedures are based on District Policy 5400 Acceleration - Grade Level and District Policy 5111 - Early Entrance to Kindergarten Acceleration. Both policies include the following components:
- standardized assessment results,
- use of the Iowa Acceleration Scale to determine if acceleration or early entrance to Kindergarten is appropriate for the child,
- parent questionnaire/input, and
- decision based on criteria outlined in the administrative regulations of each policy.
The educational needs of students and the fields of work they will enter are changing. Future job growth will need an educated workforce that is highly skilled in science and math and also in creative problem solving. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs are increasing and pay well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that about 7.31 million Americans were employed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations in 2018, an increase of 7.48% from 2014, when there were 6.80 million STEM workers. (Reference: https://smartasset.com/checking-account/fastest-growing-stem-jobs-in-the-us-2020)
Westonka provides a K-12 engineering curriculum that incorporates national Next Generation Science Standards-aligned engineering lessons and hands-on projects through our K-7 science program. Grandview Middle School also offers students a STEM engineering course at each grade level, and Grandview students have the opportunity to expand their STEM learning with two elective courses: Future Cities and Future Problem Solvers.
Mound Westonka High School provides students the opportunity to take engineering courses through its certified Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering program. Currently, the engineering department offers five years of engineering courses, including four years of PLTW courses, the majority of which provide college credit. In addition, the high school offers STEAM Integrated Physics. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Students who take this course are immersed in a learning environment that melds art and physics together, creating an authentic, application-based learning experience, while meeting their high school art and physics requirements.
Edge21 Technology Plan
The new reality in preparing students for life in the 21st century centers on understanding that the workforce they will be entering is global and requires a different type of literacy skills. We believe it is critical that all Westonka students be technologically literate—while retaining other essential skills, such as problem solving/critical thinking, effective communication skills and creativity—in order to be well-prepared for life after high school. In order to meet these needs, the Edge21 Technology Plan focuses on five strands:
- Technology Security
- User Experience
- Innovative Technologies
These five areas support the district’s K-12 1-to-1 device program, which provides grade K-4 students iPads and grades 5-12 students Chromebooks to support their learning.
The purpose of Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services (ADSIS) is to provide instruction to assist students who need additional academic or behavioral support to succeed in the mainstream classroom. The goal is to reduce the number of referrals to special education by providing supports early to struggling students. Districts are expected to align the ADSIS program within their existing continuum of supports and to collect data and submit it to the Minnesota Department of Education, which monitors the program’s effectiveness.
Title I Program
For students not meeting grade level expectations in reading and/or math, schools that qualify for Federal Title I services provide students additional support in the classroom and/or additional time to make gains in order to decrease or alleviate their gaps in math and reading. Schools qualify for the Title I program based on their poverty rate.
The district provides special education programming and support for students that meet criteria for any of 13 identified disabilities. Each child that participates in the special education program has specific Individual Education Progress (IEP) goals to focus on and meet each school year.
Reading and Math Intervention Programs
Westonka utilizes research-based reading and math intervention programs to support students at all levels that struggle with reading and/or mathematics. Specific programs used with students include the following:
- Sonday Reading Intervention, focusing on decoding sounds and words plus phonemic awareness
- SRA Reading Mastery/Corrective Reading Programs, which focus on phonics development and decoding plus comprehension
- IXL, which analyzes student work and real-time diagnostic assessments to create a personalized learning program for students to complete and address specific learning gaps
- Voyager VMath and TransMath programs, which address gaps in middle and high school students’ math understanding