All over the world, teachers like to share their best practices. And it’s no different in St. Cloud.
The St. Cloud Center of Excellence, along with centers at Rochester and Thief River Falls, were created with federal money. The Minnesota Department of Education and Gov. Mark Dayton announced this week it would spend $2 million to create similar centers in Marshall, Fergus Falls and Mountain Iron.
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the plan is to help schools implement programs that close the achievement gap, increase graduation rates and increase student progress.
This approach to improving schools is unique, she said, because it builds region networks, not just in a district.
The centers encourage teachers to share best practices with each other, she said, because that’s how teachers best learn how to increase a child’s learning.
Part of the push to create new centers, she said, was because of the success of the existing three.
For example, Cassellius said, the lowest-performing 15 percent of schools in the state that were contributing to the achievement gap showed improvement when the state announced new MMR ratings in October.
And, about one-third of schools that were previously identified as a Priority or Focus schools because of low scores no longer carry the label.
“We have had such great feedback over the last few years that we said, ‘let’s just keep going,’” she said, “and to move a whole state, you have to think systemically.
You have to build networks of teachers throughout the entire state.”
Susan Burris, director of the Center of Excellence, which is a part of Resource Training & Solutions in St. Cloud, also said the center helped improve the work done in schools.
Six specialists in five different areas, including reading, math, implementation science, special education and English language development worked in 27 schools in their region, which is 26,000 square miles.
The specialists go into the schools and offer hands-on, on-site support to a school’s leadership team. They begin with a comprehensive needs assessment that looks at the data to find out what’s contributing to the achievement gap.