APS: A New Year at Austin Public Schools

Published 5:20 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

By Dr. Joey Page

As we move forward into the second semester at Austin Public Schools, I hope the past few weeks have been relaxing and enjoyable with family and friends. Each new year, my family comes together for a family meeting, usually with us gathering in the living room to review the previous year’s aspirations, accomplishments, and the “not yets.” My wife, Chel, also asks everyone to pick a word for the year.

I didn’t offer Inspire, Empower, or Accelerate (our Austin Public Schools mission) as my word for the year, but it was close! No, my word for 2023 is Transform. Yes, this means miles on the treadmill and bike on a personal note. But more importantly, I see this year as an opportunity to Transform our Austin Public Schools. Here are the highlights of a few significant transformations that are already underway.

Packer Profile

The Packer Profile is a district priority based on the community’s shared aspirations for students and what it means to be a graduate of APS. It reflects what our students, staff, and families desire each day for our students, and it supports students’ preparation to become college, career, and life ready. Students will work to develop the Packer core values through career pathway exploration and meaningful learning experiences, which will be demonstrated through a portfolio before graduation.

APS graduates are entering an ever-changing world filled with endless possibilities. To support our students in achieving their dreams after high school, APS staff will model and guide students toward their development of the Packer Core Values. The core values will hold our system accountable for focusing our instruction, student engagement, and community collaboration as we support our students to make a difference in the world.

The Packer Profile reflects three key principles to guide student experience throughout their education at APS:

Career Pathways Exploration — Students will leverage their interests and abilities to explore future careers and educational opportunities.

Meaningful Learning Experiences — Core content and instruction will intentionally engage students in authentic learning experiences with relevance beyond APS.

Packer Portfolio — Beginning with the class of 2027, students will celebrate by sharing their meaningful pathway journey and growth in the Packer Core Values through a digital portfolio with the community.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

Following an extensive evaluation, we are working with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) on the district-wide implementation of a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.

The Minnesota Department of Education defines MTSS as a “systemic, continuous improvement framework for ensuring positive social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and academic outcomes for every student.” MnMTSS provides access to layered tiers of culturally and linguistically responsive, evidence-based practices and relies on the understanding and belief that every student can learn and thrive. In addition, it engages an anti-bias and socially-just approach to examining policies and practices and ensuring equitable distribution of resources and opportunity.”

Our District is using this information as we prioritize, design, and implement academic, behavioral, and mental health services that align with best practice research and the needs of students. The work with CAREI follows a continuous improvement framework that creates a road-map to facilitate the District’s continuous improvement of programs, practices, and student outcomes. This process acknowledges that all systems can improve and that opportunities for improvement are built upon our District’s current strengths, history, structure, and resources.

Elementary

School Transition

The Minnesota Department of Education’s flexible learning year provides optional scheduling approaches for students and educators for a school year by building or program. Sumner Elementary School has utilized a 45/15 schedule for several years in the Austin Public Schools. Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, Sumner Elementary School will return to the same calendar as the other elementary schools in the District.

This means that beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, all Austin Public Schools will be on a traditional calendar when all students begin in the fall, have traditional breaks throughout the year, and have most of the summer off. This schedule transition also means that all elementary students in the Austin Public Schools will eventually begin the process of adhering to attending their neighborhood elementary school. The elementary boundaries have not changed. This transition will involve several changes throughout the District, and we would like to share as much as possible with you on our web page.

These are just some transformational highlights underway in the Austin Public Schools, and it demands a lot from everyone — including action. In his gem, The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn says: “Intention without action is only a dream. In the end, it isn’t what we want to do or plan to do but what we actually do that makes any difference.”

None of this opportunity to Transform is accomplished without people. I am incredibly proud and inspired by our staff and school board—they make it all happen. I feel energized by the possibilities to continue these transformations to achieve the best for our APS students, staff, and the community.