St. Paul school chief: Real work begins now

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2012 - 6:09 AM

Personalized learning is goal of technology component of $39 million per year levy approved Tuesday in St. Paul.

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Valeria Silva, St. Paul schools superintendent, mingled with guests last December at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory before giving her State of the District address.

Photo: Joles, David, Star Tribune

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St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva said Wednesday that voters who backed her vision of technology-enhanced learning can expect to know by the start of next school year what their money will buy.

The goal is "personalized learning," and it will be fueled by a $9 million slice of a $39 million per year levy approved Tuesday by 61 percent of St. Paul school district voters.

Silva plans to have a committee in place by December or early January to look at all facets of a digital system designed to give students the power to learn anytime, anywhere -- and at their own pace.

Acknowledging the impatience of people who want to see the plan, Silva said Wednesday that she hoped the committee would help roll out at least one piece of the technology initiative for the 2013-14 school year.

The eight-year investment approved Tuesday kicks in next summer, and Silva said that taxpayers deserve and can expect to see results in Year 1.

But she cautioned that the work is complex and will take time to implement fully. She said she plans to call on students and parents to join educators as part of the committee, which has yet to be formed.

Although it remains to be seen what may be in place next year, Silva threw out as an example a focus on high school algebra.

Imagine, she said, that a teacher discovered that a ninth-grader was performing at a seventh-grade level. The teacher could identify online resources to help the student catch up after school or at home, she said.

Earlier this year, the district sought bids for a "teaching and learning platform" that would include electronic courses and interactive quizzes, and a means for teachers, students and parents to communicate.

No firm has been selected for the work. Silva wants the committee to have a say in that decision.

The rest of the levy consists of $30 million in funding for all-day kindergarten and other programs -- a special funding stream first approved by voters in 2006.

Silva said that the levy vote was "amazing," not just because of the victory, but also the margin.

"I am humbled that the community has been so wonderful in stepping up at this level," she said. "I also am impatient. It's like, 'I want it done.'"

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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