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More college credits to be available to Willmar students

WILLMAR — Willmar Senior High has received a grant from the University of Minnesota to implement a new curriculum aimed at providing career readiness training for students.

The school will be implementing a new selection of classes that will allow students to graduate with as many as 32 college credits.

The grant, called Ramp-Up to Readiness, will help schools implement 2013 legislation called World’s Best Workforce.

Principal Paul Schmitz talked about the school’s plans at a recent School Board meeting.

The law is going to change a number of things about high schools in the state. Standardized testing will be different, and schools will be required to offer more career guidance.

The details of the changes aren’t entirely clear yet, and school leaders will be attending more training in March.

Schmitz and high school counselor Ben Dimond said that students’ college and career interests will be surveyed each year.

“We haven’t had a plan to challenge each kid to look at their interests,” Schmitz said, so it will be a new experience for everyone at the school.

The interest testing will allow counselors and advisers to help students choose courses that might be in line with their interests. The final class choices are up to the student and parents, he said, and no student will be required to follow a certain course of the study. The law doesn’t allow it.

The new system will involve every teacher and every student in the school. Each teacher will be assigned to advise 15 students, and the teachers will work with the same group of students from grades 9-12.

Teachers will meet with that advisement group periodically through the year using a curriculum that will address preparing for life after high school by talking about academic readiness, post-secondary admissions, career readiness, financial readiness and personal/social readiness.

“It’s a “student-centered approach,” Schmitz said that should help students focus on their futures.

“We hope to have kids choose a class because it aligns with their goals,” he said. Some students in the current system may take a class because of who the teacher is or which lunch period the class will have, he said, and he hopes to see less of that.

“The kids will drive our progress in the future,” Schmitz said. The school may be able to work with Ridgewater College to provide opportunities for students, and “we will try to give kids realistic options.”

To accomplish the additional instruction in preparing for careers and college, Schmitz proposed permanently extending the school day 15 minutes, until 2:45 p.m. instead of 2:30 p.m.

Students are already going to school until 2:45 p.m. for the rest of the school year to make up for instruction time lost to snow days this winter.

Other scheduling changes may be made on the days when advisers meet with their students.

“The conversation has just begun,” Schmitz said. “What we do know is something is going to change.”

Cardinal College

The program of college classes, called College In the Schools, will be available to high school students and will reach a number of interests. The Willmar School District is calling the package of courses “Cardinal College.”

The program will include the school’s Advanced Placement courses, as well as Project Lead the Way courses. Project Lead the Way is a series of science, technology, engineering and math courses that can lead to students earning up to six credits from the University of Minnesota.

A number of College In the Schools courses will be offered, some through Ridgewater College, Southwest Minnesota State University and St. Cloud State University.

College In the Schools courses will include Introduction to Microeconomics, Precalculus, Environmental Science, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Intro to Biology, Physics and Spanish.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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