North Branch Area Public Schools continues to strive for improved teaching and learning under the World’s Best Workforce plan.

During the North Branch School Board meeting Dec. 10, Director of Teaching and Learning David Treichel explained the World’s Best Workforce is required under state statute, through the Minnesota Department of Education. The World’s Best Workforce legislation requires an annual report to be presented at a public meeting, be posted on the district website and then submitted to the Department of Education.

The World’s Best Workforce plan has five goals:

• All children are ready for school.

• All third-graders can read at grade level.

• All achievement gaps between students are closed.

• All students are ready for career and/or post secondary education.

• All students graduate from high school.

Treichel said the district uses a screening to see if students are ready to begin kindergarten.

“In the past, we’ve used the screening by age 3. There’s reasons why we use that measure as preparedness for kindergarten,” Treichel said. “This is a critical time in development and a way for us to reach out to our families to get an early indication on how students are doing developmentally. And then intervening as often as possible during that time, getting them ready for kindergarten.”

Treichel said a lot of thought has gone into the goal of making sure all third-graders can read at grade level.

“There’s a lot of research that goes into when and where to assesses students starting in literacy. Teaching literacy is an exceptionally difficult task,” Treichel said. “Teaching students how to take those letters that they have and then transform them into words and then to comprehend that. What an amazing task that is, but what an amazing thing when you start seeing that development in children, it gives you goosebumps.”

Treichel explained learning how to read doesn’t stop at grade three.

“Learning how to read does not stop. With more complexity of text, we are constantly working with all of our staff to increase their ability to really hone in on best practices in reading instruction,” Treichel said. “All the way through high school we’re doing that, we’re working with our core content teachers. So that learning to read does not stop.”

Treichel said the district is focusing on eliminating achievement gaps for students receiving special education services or free or reduced lunches.

“A simple thing that we’re doing, the amount of access points that we’re providing for families from last spring to now is doubled,” Treichel said. “And we’ve just placed another order of additional hot spots to ensure that all of our families have access to reliable internet service. We offer additional devices to the lower level students so that they have access to reliable computers so that they can access their content online.

“In addition to that, with regards to special education, with students that are receiving special education services, we are constantly looking through how we can continue to provide increased support for those students right now,” Treichel added.

Treichel said he and the student services supervisor are currently examining feedback from trimester one, and putting in place items that can increase support services for students receiving special education services.

“So we’re constantly refining that so that our gap doesn’t widen during this time, that we’re often reading about, so that it’s closing and we’re doing every effort possible for that,” Treichel said.

Treichel said he gets excited when talking about the goal that makes sure all students are ready for career and/or postsecondary education.

“I am energized by this work. It gives me hope,” Treichel said. “Just to recap last year, there were a lot of districts that were not able to administer the ACT because of the stay-at-home order. Two years ago, North Branch Area Public Schools focused its attention, not just on the ACT, but for providing a broader assessment group that met the needs of the students and their growth goals.”

Treichel mentioned the district implemented the pre-ACT and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test (ASVAB) for students in 10th grade. The district then brought in the Accuplacer, the ACT and the ASVAB in the 11th-grade.

“Not all of our students are going off to a four-year postsecondary school. We have to provide those opportunities for students that are more geared to where their goals are for the future,” Treichel said. “Our career and college readiness is underway and planning. The anticipated date is March 2 of this school year. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we can go ahead and implement that and play that out for our students so that we are preparing them for college, career and life.”

Treichel said there are four-, five-, six- and seven-year high school graduation rates, but districts mainly look at their four-year graduation rate. He said for the 2019 school year, North Branch had a graduation rate of 90%.

“There’s still work to be done on that, and we continue to strive for better and better so that all students graduate. However, there may be students that will take into their fifth year or sixth year. And I’ve had students that we did not give up on, that earned their diploma when they turned 20,” Treichel said. “And that all students will graduate and earn their diploma is really, really important to us right now in terms of the pandemic and how this is affecting students and making sure that we create those pathways towards their diploma.”

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