Tuesday, August 21, 2012

NW MN Foundation awards grants

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation recently awarded the Northwest Service Cooperative a $25,000 grant to improve teacher effectiveness. Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) is a program that allows teachers to share lesson plans and receive constructive criticism in a trusting peer group setting. Because of its great impact in other states and Minnesota School Districts, the Northwest Service Cooperative and five regional superintendents want to implement this key tool in order to improve test scores.

The five pilot schools include Bagley, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Fisher, Kelliher and Laporte. They and the Northwest Service Cooperative are committed to the AIW process and believe it will produce results. With a safe environment to discuss lesson plans, the teacher will get tips and tactics on how to improve student performance. To build peer trust, teachers begin with their weakest lesson plan. Peers can then help the teacher connect with all students by giving positive feedback on the lesson plan.

“The idea is to build lesson plans that reach all students and develop student critical thinking by applying lesson concepts to real world applications,” said Dr. Bruce Jensen, executive director of Northwest Service Cooperative. “This approach does not require the schools to purchase new curricula, and works with the lessons they already use. The potential for success is real and immediate within one to three years,” Jensen said.

NMF Program Officer for Grants Nate Dorr said, “After the pilot phase, there is real potential to expand the program into other schools in Northwest Minnesota. The region has a chance to lead school reform in Minnesota if positive results are shown.”

The project was also supported by the Blandin Foundation, Minnesota Rural Education Association, and the Center for Authentic Intellectual Work housed at UW Madison.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is a public, charitable foundation serving 12 counties of Northwest Minnesota by investing resources, creating opportunities and promoting philanthropy.