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  • The Landscape of Education: An Update from Northern Cass and DGF

  • The Landscape of Education: An Update from Northern Cass and DGF

    The Landscape of Education: An Update from Northern Cass and DGF

    With widespread growth across our metro, a high level of education is essential to fulfilling workforce demands. We recently connected with school leaders from North Cass Public School and DGF Public schools to learn how teaching styles and classroom activities have changed due to the pandemic; plans for this school year; and a general overview and update on enrollment number, district growth and long-term plans. 

    Northern Cass is a 400 square mile rural school district serving students in the communities of Arthur, Argusville, Gardner, Grandin, Hunter and Erie. The district is seeing record enrollment with 685 learners in the district. 

    DGF Public Schools consists of three communities in Minnesota: Dilworth, Glyndon and Felton. Together, these schools are home to just under 1600 students. 

    When it comes to facing current workforce shortages, both school districts have implemented creative strategies. Northern Cass has adopted a competency-based education system, focusing on personalized learning. The district wants learners to engage in experiential learning outside of the school in order to develop the skills found in their Portrait of a Learner, which include accountability, adaptability, communication, leadership and a learner’s mindset. Placing learners in businesses and authentic learning experiences not only benefits the learners, but also challenges business partners to be innovative and provides a way for them to share passion for their industry and build their future talent base. 

    One way DGF is addressing the workforce shortage is by utilizing a mentor/mentee program that was created collaboratively with teachers and administration. The program focuses on providing time and resources to support new teachers and set them up for a successful year. 

    Teaching methods have transformed with the advancement of technology in the class room, leading many schools to develop innovative approaches to meet the educational needs of students. DGF continues to make technological advances to meet the needs of today’s learner. The past year has brought many challenges, but out of those challenges came opportunities for growth. They have shifted their approach to meet all students’ needs over various systems such as Schoology and Google Classroom. DGF also partners with Lakes Country Service Cooperative to provide a tech integrationist who supports teachers and students with tech related resources. 

    In Northern Cass’s competency-based system, learners don’t advance until they have demonstrated proficiency. This allows learners to progress at a pace which meets their individual needs. Their learning management system, Empower, tracks learner evidence while providing a flexible curriculum. The district no longer focuses on traditional letter or percentage grades, which allows learners to focus on learning and not simply a grade. They’re also in the process of transitioning away from grade levels which will allow learners to be placed based on their current level and not on age. 

    Looking toward the future, both districts believe many educational opportunities will emerge. Northern Cass is excited for learners to be engaged in internships, job shadows and presentations in alignment with their chosen pathway. According to superintendent Cory Steiner, he envisions a change in the layout of the school year. “I envision this happening by breaking down the school year into six-week-long mini courses, tying student passion areas to standards, such as science fiction and English or fantasy football and math. High-school learners could spend as much as half the day at internships, jobs or college classes.  It is time to rebuild a new system of education which finally values learners as individuals who can change the world.” The district hopes that in doing this, learners will graduate choice-ready while developing the skills necessary to become generous, kind and loving human beings. 

    DGF has always had a strong bond between staff, students, communities and stakeholders. They’re excited to use these bonds to solidify partnerships, which in turn will create additional opportunities for students. The district is also in the process of laying out a clear, strategic plan which will encompass everything from buildings and grounds to student achievement. DGF is also excited about having access to the Career Academy in Moorhead. Through a partnership with Moorhead Public Schools, DGF students are able to attend the Academy which opens up countless possibilities. When students exit the DGF School District, they will leave with a skillset that will allow them to continue their educational path onto a successful career.

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