Edina schools creating ‘next generation’ plan

Edina school administration is well underway in studying what the next generation of an Edina education should include.

Teaching and Learning Director Randy Smasal said he expects to bring recommendations to the Edina School Board in January on options the district has for secondary education to implement for 2015 and beyond.

In the meantime, the district is undergoing a three-year plan to lead into the long-term plan, Smasal told the school board on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

During the three-year plan, the administration will be considering the process of how curriculum is written and reviewed, the integration of technology and the creation of standards-based grading and reporting, Smasal said.

In the long-term plan for 2015, the district is completing a secondary course audit and reviewing its graduation requirements, Smasal said.

The district gathered input from 400 parents, 200 students and 200 staff through focus groups and surveys in October.

The district is also researching programs around the world to find out how others in education are being innovative in different subjects and considering how Edina can apply that innovation to its secondary education.

The culmination of the information gathering will be the presentation of the options to the board in January, he said.

“I can’t say how much education is exploding with new ideas right now,” Superintendent Ric Dressen said. “It is a time of change and opportunity, and everyone is looking for the ideas, the innovation piece that will align. It is really something.”

Changes to secondary courses has been put on hold due to the studies and potential plans, but a few changes are being proposed to courses for the 2013-2014 school year to alleviate immediate needs, Smasal said.

The board is expected to vote on the course changes for the next school year in December.

Concert orchestra is expected to be added at Edina High School so the orchestra program class offerings mirror that of the band and choir programs.

A Project Lead The Way: Green Architecture program could replace the current Project Lead The Way: Gateway to Technology program at South View and Valley View Middle schools. The green architecture course has an enhanced math component whereas the gateway to technology is a science, technology, engineering and math program.

The prerequisites for French at Edina High School are expected to be adjusted to allow French immersion students to take Advanced Placement French before 12th grade and allow non-immersion students to be able to reach the AP French class by their senior year, Smasal said.

The individual fitness/dual sports and personal fitness/wellness classes at Edina High School are expected to be dropped from the curriculum because too few students have signed up for the class for the past three years and the class has had to be canceled.

Precalculus and AP calculus offerings are expected to be adjusted. The 10th grade-only segment of precalculus is proposed to end and the 10th grade students will be mixed in with students from other grades in the precalculus class. The AP calculus (BC) class will have many students next year based on how many students are taking AP calculus (AB) this year. Students will be given two options next year for AP caluculus (BC). They can audit the first half of the course to receive credit and a pass/fail grade because they’ve already covered the materials in the first semester. Students can also complete a community-related math project for credit, Smasal said.

Earlier start

The Edina School Board also approved beginning the school day at all schools five minutes earlier for the 2013-2014 school year.

The change was due to the Minnesota Department of Education changing from a day requirement for districts to an hour requirement. Many school districts in the state are adding minutes to their students day due to this change, Dressen said.

The extra five minutes will add up to an extra 13.25 hours for the year.

It will be up to the individual school administrations to decide how to adjust the schedules to accommodate the extra five minutes. Dressen said he hopes the extra time will be added to instructional time in the classroom rather than added time to lunch or passing between classes.

Bus cameras

The school board approved in a 6-1 vote to being a pilot program for bus cameras.

School Boardmember Idith Almog was the lone opposition in the vote because she felt it was a slippery slope and despite the pilot program not having a cost, the cost will be the time it takes staff to review the tapes.

The school board opposed adding cameras to the buses in the 1990s, Dressen said. All neighboring school districts have cameras in buses, except Eden Prairie, which is phasing them in by 2014, Director of Business Services Margo Bauck said.

The cameras will be placed in four buses on both regular and activity buses. The district will communicate with parents about the cameras.

The videos recorded on the cameras will be saved on a chip, which can then  be watched on a computer. Bauck said the district will be following the student privacy rights for who can view the tapes. The cameras will be used similarly to those in the hallways and parking lots of the schools, Dressen said.

Bauck said they want the bus driver’s attention to be on the road and will make bus rides safer for students.

The videos will also allow the district to have a record if there’s an incident on a bus, she said.

Almog said she hasn’t seen evidence of an increase in bullying and she hasn’t heard there’s a need for the cameras. She called the cameras a “slippery slope.”

“I’d rather have an educational approach to discipline,” she said.