With a roughly 95 percent graduation rate, Mounds View Public Schools is clearly seeing success when it comes to students finishing high school. However, for the Shoreview, Minn.-based district, simply awarding diplomas isn’t enough. “We want students to graduate, but we want to set a higher target than just accumulating credits for a high school diploma,” Superintendent Dan Hoverman says.
This fall, the district will establish a hybrid early college education program in one of its high schools that will offer students the opportunity to earn a two-year associates’ degree at the same time they work toward a diploma. College credit courses will be taught on the high school campus by Mounds View staff.
For younger students, Mounds View is emphasizing coursework aligned to the ACT and its practice exams, the EXPLORE and the PLAN. “A major theme for us is post-secondary success for all students and trying to align that theme from our elementary schools through our high schools,” Hoverman adds. “We’re putting a structure in place where students can be successful on the ACT and in college courses. We want our students to be at a level on the ACT where they will be accepted into a two-year or four-year school after leaving here.”
The goal of post-secondary success extends to students who may not necessarily be bound for a traditional college education, as Mounds View is looking into making articulation agreements with technical schools. “We’re creating pathways for students to look at other vocations at the same time as giving them a solid academic foundation,” he says.
A staff of committed teachers is central to the district’s ability to meet its goal of student success. All teachers regularly engage in professional development programs created by district staff and building principals, and all new teachers participate in a mentorship program. “We provide high-quality support to make sure teachers get off to a good start, then continue to work with them to make sure they are succeeding in the classroom,” Hoverman stresses.
Mounds View Public Schools serves 9,800 students in seven communities located roughly nine miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The district, one of the largest in Minnesota, consists of six elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools, one alternative high school and an area learning center.
Hoverman has served as superintendent for the past five years, previously serving as a deputy superintendent. He has worked in Mounds View Public Schools for 37 years.
Individually focused academic programs are another top priority for the district. The district analyzes test scores, progress reports and other data to help assess student progress and develop programs designed to meet the needs of each student. “I believe we have to personalize for individual students – if we don’t do that well, we compromise how successful they will be after they leave us,” Hoverman explains.
The district also uses technology to enhance classroom work. High school students are offered more than 20 hybrid courses that blend face-to-face teacher and student interaction with online computer-based instruction. Lessons are also available in video format.
Hoverman takes a collaborative approach to leadership and believes in maintaining strong communication among staff members. “I seek input as much as I can from all levels of the district, from senior management to principals and teacher leaders, and I work on an ongoing basis to refine the strategic direction of the district based on that,” he says. “We’ve created a culture where we’re concerned about the progress of every student. There’s a real sense of shared leadership here between executive staff, teachers and principals.”
The district also makes a strong effort to reach its surrounding school and outside community through marketing and public relations efforts. These efforts are paying off with a positive reputation among parents, area residents and prospective teachers.
“I think we have a very supportive community that values K-12 education and have a school board that is very focused on the policy issues that need to be addressed in order for us to be successful,” Hoverman says.
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