Carson district hiring to implement Race to the Top grant

Interviews are under way to begin hiring the staff needed to implement the $10 million Race to the Top grant in the Carson City School District, the school board was told Tuesday.

The board received the news from Steve Pradere, director of grants and special projects. “For the most part, we want to hire our own people for these positions,” he said in an earlier interview. Those hires, he said, could stave off some of the more than a dozen layoffs planned as part of cuts to the budget.

He said choosing 12 implementation specialists, or coaches to train other teachers in the new system, is the first step in what will revolutionize education in Carson City.

“It’s really going to change the way you go to high school,” he said.

The Carson City School District was one of 16 to receive the nationally competitive Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In its application, the district laid out a model for a new approach to education at the secondary level.

Under the new model, the high school will be divided into six career pathways: Agriculture, Business, Family and Consumer Science, Heath Occupations, Informational Technology, and Trade and Industry.

Each student will select an area of interest and be assigned to one of the pathways. Each pathway will have a counselor to help students determine the best classes to take according to their individual interests.

“For instance, if a kid is interested in medicine, why not take a heath occupations class and go out and spend some time in the industry?” Pradere said. “We want to make sure kids get these experiences.”

While all students will choose a pathway, they are not obligated to stay with it all four years.

“You can switch pathways at any time,” he said. “The idea is to give them as many experiences that will help prepare them to make those decisions. They may not necessarily make a decision, even at 25, but if you have a broader perspective of what’s expected, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.”

The coaches, or implementation specialists, will train fellow teachers on a new delivery method, termed student-centered learning. Instead of teaching, then testing, Pradere said, teachers will assess where the students are at the beginning of a class and then give them a clear direction of where they need to be through a detailed learning guide.

“Before you even start the unit, you’ll know what the expectations are,” Pradere said. “It will really define that curriculum. If students know the pathway, they can self-monitor to know if they are on target. That helps to bring about better outcomes.”

While some teachers already operate this way, Pradere said the coaching will ensure that all teachers adopt the same style.

“We know the skills of our master teachers are already learning-centered,” he said. “We’re trying to build an organization that’s going to help all our teachers become master teachers.”

As part of pursuing a certain pathway, students will also work with members of the community in the desired field, a process that has already begun with the school district’s strategic plan.

“Race to the Top and the district’s strategic plan go hand in hand,” Pradere said.

The emphasis will shift, Pradere said, to making students college and career ready to college and career ready.

“They’ll be ready to do both,” he said. “They can enter college without needing remediation or enter they work force if they choose.”

The program is expected to be rolled out in January.


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