Education That Works is a partnership between the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo Public School Districts, United Way Cass Clay, and the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation that is investing in the region’s economic future.
An Opportunity to Invest in Our Students
The Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) has identified a unique opportunity to invest in the region’s economic future—through today’s teachers and students.
Following discussions with regional business leaders that chronicle an increasing need to compete and perform more strongly in a global market, the GFMEDC has determined a forward-thinking solution to the issue. GFMEDC has created the Education That Works initiative, in response to an unmet need for workers and leaders. Workforce members are needed who can think critically, collaborate, and develop creative solutions to challenges, thus allowing regional businesses to perform and compete at a higher level and in a global marketplace.
Education That Works is a partnership between the Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo Public School Districts, United Way Cass Clay, and the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.
“We must prepare a workforce ready to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s challenges. The Education That Works initiative pledges to invest resources and work with local school districts, educational leaders, and corporations to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce,” said Jim Gartin, President of GFMEDC. “The landscape is changing for education. Supporting economic growth and stability includes producing a workforce that is highly skilled. Industry is calling for people versed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It’s paramount we prepare today’s educators to provide curriculum and learning that produces strategically strong individuals to fill those needs.”
The Education That Works partners have identified professional development of the region’s teachers to have the greatest impact on best preparing our students to be the innovators and leaders of the future. The goals of Education That Works include providing enhanced professional development for current educators, preparing tomorrow’s educators differently, and communicating 21st Century Skills development with stakeholders and the business community.
It is the belief of the Education That Works partners that the community can help improve the performance caliber of our future workforce and tomorrow’s leaders by elevating the learning opportunities for students. Their initiatives propose creating that change by:
- Providing experiences and opportunities for teachers to reflect on current classroom practices to ensure students are actively engaged in learning that helps them uncover the passions they want to pursue beyond high school.
- Providing time for teachers to collaborate with business partners to develop and implement authentic and relevant learning experiences that align to the needs of today’s workforce.
- Partnering with businesses to provide supplemental learning opportunities for students.
Jodell Teiken, Director of Standards-Based Instruction for the Fargo Public Schools is excited about this forward-focus on learning. “The most meaningful learning experiences are those in which the learner is truly curious and committed to the learning outcome,” she commented. “It’s amazing the number of hours a student will spend shooting baskets or rehearsing for a play; we want that same excitement for and commitment to learning in the classroom. In order to do that, students need to be invested in more than the grades on their report card.”
What does this initiative look like for 2014?
This first year effort is focused on providing professional development for teachers that establishes common language and a deeper understanding of 21stCentury Skills, plus encourages the incorporation of technology and project-based learning in the classroom. This style of learning utilizes inquiry and collaborative problem solving rather than more traditional learning methods such as reading textbooks and fact memorization. Students are encouraged to plan, experiment, and reflect, making cross-curriculum connections and producing products for audiences beyond their classroom teacher. The 2014 initiative components are:
- Summer Tech Camp – a three-day technology immersion experience for teachers, June 10 – 12
- Engaging 21st Century Learners – a three-day project-based learning teacher workshop, July 21 – 23 or July 28 – 30
- C.O.D.E. (Creating Opportunities for Digital Experiences) – a two-day student technology camp for middle school students, June 24 & 25 or July 15 & 16
What are 21st Century Skills, and why should we focus on them?
One of the first goals of Education That Works is to establish a common understanding and definition of the 21st Century Skills and their Four C’s, to be utilized by all the education partners and their students. They are:
- Communication: sharing thoughts, questions, ideas and solutions
- Collaboration: working together to reach a goal
- Critical Thinking: Looking at problems in new ways, linking learning across subjects and disciplines
- Creativity: Trying new approaches to get things done with innovation and invention
Adaptation of the Common Core State Standards is a trending topic. Colleges, businesses, and parents agree communication, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and collaboration skills are essential regardless of a student’s score on the latest standardized test. By emphasizing 21st Century Skills, teachers help students learn the content standards through applying skills that will make them successful in college and careers.
Some may ask why Education That Works is undertaking professional development of our teachers—because isn’t professional development a responsibility of each school district? And the answer is absolutely yes, it is each school district’s responsibility to provide ongoing professional development for its teachers. All three school districts have identified the implementation of 21st Century Skills as a priority in long term strategic planning as well as short term operational goals. Metro teachers use professional time within the school year calendars to learn and share strategies to bring these skills into their classrooms. However, this time isn’t sufficient to produce the kind of learning, collaborating, and reflection needed to challenge and rethink traditional teaching practices. By offering professional learning opportunities in the summer, the three districts will be able to reach more teachers and respond to the needs of our community as quickly as possible.
Businesses already understand the economic impact this initiative is opening up for the region. At a May 20 press conference, Xcel Energy announced a $25,000 sponsorship of Education That Works. Ben Fowke, Xcel Energy President and CEO said, “An estimated 50% of the labor force will retire in the next ten years. Our company’s continued success and growth depends on a workforce with the skillset to fill those jobs. If we build a strong community, we build strong businesses. With this donation, Xcel Energy is pleased to invest in the community and our future.”
Pictured left to right: Sherri Thomsen, President, United Way Cass Clay; Jim Gartin, President, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation; Ben Fowke, President, Xcel Energy; Dr. Lynn Kovash, Superintendent, Moorhead Public Schools; Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of North Dakota Public Instruction; Dr. Jeffrey Schatz, Superintendent of Fargo Public Schools; Charlene Briner, Chief of Staff, Minnesota Department of Education; and Dr. David Flowers, Superintendent of West Fargo Public Schools.
Microsoft has also committed to be a Gold-level sponsor, and it is anticipated that more businesses will support Education That Works as they see the positive effects of the initiative’s efforts.
Education That Works is expected to launch a public awareness campaign that includes a website and video in early June to communicate the valuable work of this partnership to more teachers, parents, students, businesses, and the greater community. Sherri Thomsen, President of United Way Cass Clay, summed up the initiative’s goals with her statement, “Education is fundamental to healthy, thriving communities.”
For more information on the 2014 components of Education That Works and how you or your student can get involved, click on the links below:
C.O.D.E. Student Tech camp website
Summer Tech Camp Teacher Workshop website