The Park Rapids School Board on Monday, Dec. 7 approved the school district’s World’s Best Workforce plan for 2020-21.

Presenting the plan and reporting about the program for 2019-20 were Park Rapids Area Virtual Academy director Jill Stevenson and high school community career collaboration coordinator (4C) Krystal Murphy. They represented a districtwide WBWF advisory committee that met Dec. 4 and that includes teacher, student, parent and community representatives, as well as a school board member, school administrators, a public employees’ union representative and a delegate from the Native American community.

Stevenson said the district met its 2019-20 goal to give low-income students, minorities and Native American students equitable access to effective, experienced teachers in their field. She said the same goal will be extended to 2020-21, with the added goal to try to expose students to teachers who reflect their racial and ethnic diversity.

Stevenson and Murphy highlighted the five “cornerstone” goals the district had for the WBWF program in 2019-20:

  1. For 80 percent of preschoolers transitioning to kindergarten to be school-ready by spring.

  2. For 80 percent of third-graders to improve their reading comprehension and fluency scores, according to FASTBridge assessments, to “at or above benchmark” in the spring.

  3. For 70 percent of students in grades 5 and 8 to make a full year’s progress in math and reading during the school year.

  4. For 85 percent of 11th graders to complete an ASVAB, ACT or Accuplacer exam and 90 percent of high school students to receive post-secondary guidance from the 4C.

  5. For the high school to post an 80-percent four-year graduation rate and an 87 percent seven-year graduation rate.

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Due to COVID-19 and the distance learning executive order last spring, the schools did not administer spring assessments or obtain accurate data from the state about graduation rates, so Stevenson and Murphy were unable to report on goals 1-3 or 5.

However, Murphy noted that the fourth goal was met, with 90 percent of juniors completing one of the assessments and all high school students participating in 4C-guided activities.

The same goals will carry forward for 2020-21, they said, except the new goal for grades 5-8 is now for 75 percent of students to increase their reading comprehension and math skills to “at or above benchmark” on spring assessments.

Regarding “achievement and integration” goals for both Park Rapids and Pine Point School, Murphy reported that the schools’ “teacher equity” target was surpassed with 90-95 percent of staff receiving RIPL (relate, impact, prevent, lead) violence prevention training and adverse childhood experiences (ACES) training during their professional development days.

Murphy said staff was unable to report about “achievement” goal of increasing math and reading scores for middle school students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, due to COVID-19 and distance learning making it impossible to administer the spring assessments.

However, she said, the high school surpassed its 2020 “integration” target, similar to the fourth WBWF goal.

College and career readiness

Murphy also discussed the rebranding of the Panther Tracks program, reporting that 2021 graduates will be the first to receive Panther Tracks certificates for participation in the 4C college and career planning program.

“They can put that on their resume,” she said. “We have quite a few students working on this, and more all the time as they’re looking about it, and they’re seeing their friends are working towards a certificate. So, it’s becoming quite popular, even in the senior class, and it gets more so as you get to the younger grades, because they have more time.”

She said the program ensures that all Panther Track students will have a working resume and real-world experience when they graduate. Strategies include job shadowing, field trips, mentoring events, and guest speakers – all happening virtually this year.

“Elementary through high school, they are getting access to college and career readiness,” said Murphy, citing such examples as an elementary class planning a career day where students will dress up and present their research about jobs.

Murphy said the 4C program has a Google Classroom featuring a “now hiring” platform, and will be working with Minnesota State Community and Technical College to build a new career and college preparedness curriculum.

“We’re going to be the front-runners on this,” she said.

She added that students in the hospitality class have asked if they can host a virtual job fair, and she will be working with them on it.

“We really introduced quite a bit into our schools,” said Murphy. “Our teachers did a great job. Our community was so helpful and supportive. We really implemented this, and as appropriate learning styles allow us to do so, we will keep implementing more and more as we go forward.”