Braham approves School Improvement Plan

By Elizabeth Sias

The Braham Area School Board approved the School Improvement Plan during their meeting Monday, Oct. 17.

After months of revising the grant application, the Minnesota Department of Education approved the grant for years two and three of the plan.

The School Improvement Plan (SIP) is part of Braham’s school turnaround program that requires money for additional teachers, counselors, programs and software in order to improve quality of education and test scores.

A quality review report released by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in May 2010 labeled Braham Area High School’s overall performance as “unacceptable.”

The approval received is conditional, Office of Turnaround Schools Officer Mike Thompson stated in his report. The condition placed upon the work plan for Braham is that MDE will review the district’s work in December to verify that the school is adhering to the work plan as written.

It is possible that MDE may ask school staff to modify parts of the plan if significant progress has not been made, Thompson explained. If changes are necessary, they will start with the second semester of the school year.

Now that the SIP has been approved, one benefit will be the purchase of technology that will be implemented along with investments the district has made into technology, Superintendent Greg Winter said.

Over the past two years, all computers in the district have been replaced along with rewiring the secondary building for WiFi capability. The grant will provide iPad portable labs that will be able to be used in the classroom.

The biggest change, Winter explained, will be the reinstatement Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which help staff work with each other and review issues the school needs to overcome to help educate students.

The PLCs will meet 90 minutes per week. During the eight sessions each month, they will work on improving instructional techniques, examining data and using it to drive instruction, peer coaching, reflection and collaboration, and developing quality assessments linked to the state standards.

“PLCs have been part of many successful schools for many years,” Winter said. “The biggest investment a school can make for student achievement is staff development.”

In other action, the board:

– Approved the addition of Best Practices to the Elementary and High School Faculty Handbooks.

– Set Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. as a community meeting to discuss the School Improvement Plan with the public.

– Set Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 a.m. as a special school board meeting to canvass election results.