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Preparing SCSD students for success

Strategic Plan: postsecondary success and lifelong learning

SOLON– The Solon Community School District officially approved its Strategic Plan at the June 13 Board of Education meeting.
The Strategic Plan describes a vision for the district, identifies its beliefs and values, and lays out goals.
It been five years since the Board of Education “dug deep” into the Strategic Plan, said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. Throughout the school year, district officials have been working on its revision. Just prior to winter break, the district sent out a survey to all staff and invited them to reflect on how they would describe Solon to family or friends over the holiday season.
From those responses came the Strategic Plan’s core values: student-first focus, collaboration, high expectations and lifelong learning.
The district’s vision is to “graduate each and every student prepared for postsecondary success.”
Along with that vision comes a postsecondary goal, which is that 90 percent of Solon High School graduates will earn a postsecondary certification or degree within five years of graduating.
Eidahl said they wanted their postsecondary goal to be inclusive to graduates who took a path other than a traditional four-year college degree.
“There are a lot of paths to success,” said Board Vice President Tim Brown, adding that trades or certificate programs should be recognized under the district’s definition of success.
The revised Strategic Plan narrows numerous Guiding Beliefs down to three key points:
• All students can achieve at high levels and should be held to high expectations;
• All students deserve caring and dedicated educators committed to challenging all learners to reach high standards in a safe, engaging and supportive school environment; and
• All staff commit to continuous professional growth to achieve excellence in their respective roles.
From those beliefs, the district has identified a mission to “engage every student in rigorous and relevant learning experiences, maximizing achievement through exceptional learning.”
To employ this mission, the plan lists annual goals:
• 90 percent of students will score as “proficient” and 30 percent will score as “highly proficient” on the Iowa Assessment’s reading, math, science and social studies sections in grades 2-11.
The “highly proficient” percentage was raised in this version of the Strategic Plan. This year’s Iowa Assessment scores, the best in Solon’s history, proved this an attainable goal.
• 100 percent of students identified in the special education or low socioeconomic status subgroup will achieve a standard Iowa Assessment score equivalent to 1.5 years’ growth.
The Iowa Assessment gives districts a standard score to measure that progress. The goal shows that no one is excluded from the district’s vision– students facing these barriers can achieve 1.5 years’ growth in Solon, Eidahl said.
• 100 percent of students will complete postsecondary credit coursework before graduating.
The district offers multiple avenues to postsecondary coursework: Advanced Placement, concurrent enrollment, high school academies or Postsecondary Enrollment Option. The newly opened Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa had 45 Solon students participate in 2015-16.
• 100 percent of students will participate in career exploration activities K-12.
The Guidance Department works on developing much of this curriculum. There are activities for all grades, from hearing career-related speakers in elementary school to doing mock job interviews in high school.
• Schools will annually administer and review a culture/climate survey to students, staff and community for continuous improvement.
This will help keep the district accountable, Eidahl said, and will make sure the vision and goals of the district remain relevant.
Each goal includes some action plans that detail what teachers, administrators or staff members will be involved, and how. This helps convert the district’s vision into an operational system, Eidahl said.
“We want to make sure that it’s not a poster on the wall, but that we’re living this and breathing this and holding ourselves accountable to it,” he said.
The district has high expectations for its students– officials acknowledge this, and have even included it as a core value of the district. But board members said it’s important to emphasize that those high expectations apply to both students and the district that supports those students.
“That’s what we want to convey to our parents and the community: that we expect a lot of students and hold them accountable, but we’re going to do a lot to make sure they’re able to achieve,” Brown said.