News & Media‎ > ‎District News‎ > ‎

Innovation and Personalization Requires Solid Fundamentals

posted Feb 5, 2016, 8:54 PM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Feb 5, 2016, 8:57 PM ]
One of the many great life lessons that I learned as a soccer player and varsity level coach is that the most sophisticated levels of play require a rock solid foundation in fundamentals. A team simply cannot bypass the hard work of mastering fundamentals and skip right to multi-faceted schemes designed to confuse opponents. In fact, many of the most successful teams achieve greatness by keeping their play simple and outshining their opponents with mastery of the basics. The same is true for teaching and learning in our schools and classrooms.

The school board in Pequot Lakes has adopted a 2020 Vision calling for the personalization of learning ensuring that all students are challenged with a rigorous and relevant learning experience. 21st century technologies have made personalizing instruction a real possibility in many school systems, and our district is marching forward to equip our students and staff with the tools to make this happen here. That said, using new technologies to personalize learning district-wide is a very sophisticated game plan for learning that requires rock solid fundamentals. Therefore, the most intense work currently happening in Pequot Lakes Schools is focused on the fundamentals.

During several inservice days spread throughout the school year, our teachers in Pequot Lakes Schools are working collaboratively to develop the PLS Digital Curriculum Library. This process starts by first being very clear about what the learning goals are for each unit of every course followed by creating performance scales that clearly articulate what student mastery of the learning goals looks like. Working collaboratively taps the expertise that each teacher brings to the table and facilitates teacher learning that ultimately improves the instruction students receive. Once learning goals and scales are developed, the creativity of our teachers is unleashed to create multiple pathways for students to learn the content, concepts, and skills of the course and to demonstrate mastery of the articulated learning goals. Developing the PLS Digital Curriculum Library has just begun and the process will continue for many years to come with ongoing refinement and improvements.

February 15th - 19th is School Board Recognition Week in MN, and we would be remiss not to acknowledge the strong commitments that our school board has made to implement this vision. They have worked decisively to champion the outstanding facilities our students and community benefit from. They established a challenging 2020 Vision and supported its implementation with a 7-period day at the secondary campus, an interventionist position at Eagle View, and a secondary STEM teaching position. Most recently our school board approved a plan to help families purchase Chromebooks for students so they can better access the digital learning spaces that are being developed. In terms of fundamentals, our school board supports the need for teacher inservice days so the Digital Curriculum Library can be developed, and they have adopted a research-supported vision for instruction using the Robert Marzano frameworks.

Thanks to the clear vision of our school board, the support of our great community, and the ongoing hard work of our talented staff, the Pequot Lakes Schools 2020 Vision will come to fruition in the years ahead. We are currently investing much of our time and effort on mastering the fundamentals, and we are excited to begin stepping into the innovative work of personalizing learning. It’s an exciting time to be an educator, and it’s a great day to be a Pequot Lakes Patriot!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools