Jorgensen revamping Northfield High School's work-based learning program - Northfield MN: News

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Jorgensen revamping Northfield High School's work-based learning program

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Posted: Friday, August 2, 2013 12:00 am

(This story appeared in the 2013 Portraits edition, published July 31 in the Northfield News.)

The work-based learning program is not new to Northfield High School.

But Joe Jorgensen, the program’s coordinator of one year, has brought plenty of new things to the table during his first year in charge. And he has plans to keep the trend of change going.

The work-based learning program is a special education program that aims to help prepare students with disabilities to transition from school to adult life, according to the program’s brochure.

“This is the one area of special education I really like,” Jorgensen said — he has been teaching special education for eight years. “I feel it’s very important to get students to understand important life skills.”

Jorgensen teaches students how to apply for jobs, ace a job interview and develop skills that are valuable in the workplace. He also works with each student’s interests and local business owners to arrange for each student to work on a real job site during the class.

“I’ve worked with businesses like Bon Appetit at St. Olaf, Ace Hardware and CarTime,” said Jorgensen. “Almost everyone I have talked to [about the program] has been willing to participate — especially local businesses.”

Northfield Superintendent Chris Richardson believes the work-based learning program also reinforces the importance of the lessons taught in the classroom.

“The key with the work-based learning program is it gives kids the opportunity to experience the world of work while they are still in school,” said Richardson. “Many times, it helps kids see the relevance of the learning that they are doing.”

Students enrolled in the class spend four days a week, during their work-based learning class period, on a work site and one day a week in the classroom with Jorgensen. This can present some challenges.

“It is hard to know exactly how everybody is doing when you only see them in the classroom once a week,” he said.

Jorgensen tries to visit each work site once every week, but with 20 students at nine different work sites each semester it can be tough. During the 2012-13 year, Jorgensen gave his students a journaling assignment to keep track of their good and bad experiences on the job.

“Journaling was hard for some students,” said Jorgensen. “But next year with the iPads, I am planning something different.”

In lieu of pencil and paper, students in the work-based learning program next year will use their iPads to create a video journal of their work experiences. Jorgensen has a lot of plans to bring business and technology into the classroom in 2013-14. There is also the potential for the two job coaches, people from NHS that go on-site with students during the week, to do a video segment with students while they are working for use in a self-reflection project, according to Jorgensen.

He started bringing business to the classroom when he brought in business managers from the community to conduct job interviews with students during finals week during his first year on the job.

“It gave students a more authentic job experience,” he said. “Having that real person do the interview gives the process some validity — it’s not just the teacher saying these things are important.”

Moving forward, Jorgensen’s goals are about expansion and becoming more visible in the community. He is looking for different civic engagement projects for students in the program to participate in alongside the workplace experience they already get.

He also hopes to have a series of speakers come to his class to talk about their jobs, starting with his students’ parents.

Then, Jorgensen plans to use Skype or other video conferencing apps to connect with professionals outside of Northfield for the series.

“I have a lot of ideas about how to expand my program,” he said with a smile.

As “more of a five-year plan,” Jorgensen would love to see a career center for all students developed at the high school — a place to pick up job applications or ask about job interviewing techniques.

“I would like to see the influence of my program expand to not only my students, but all students,” he said.

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  • parentvoice posted at 12:38 pm on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 449

    Whatever: I completely agree. But here's another thing: This past school year, Nfld piloted a state "principal assessment" procedure for the state. They kept it so secretive and on the "down low" that few parents/taxpayers/citizens knew it was happening. Why the secrecy? I believe it was so that Dr. R. coulld keep any problems from being voiced so that he could then tell all of his minions that they were doing a "great, great job," clap them on the back and everyone goes away happy.

    That's the problem with public education in this country and especially in this town. We so fear conflict, we so fear honest and rigorous evaluation that we try to smooth everything over so that all the staff members get the same prize and the same praise. Even when not deserved.

    Of course, the school board does the same with Dr. R--secret evals not even put on the agenda--big bonuses awarded for stellar performance in every category--and boom! he's rehired for another 3 years with nothing but awards.

  • whatever posted at 12:15 pm on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    whatever Posts: 341

    The problem at the Northfield High School is Administration. Although there are a couple of teachers that should be canned.

  • parentvoice posted at 11:34 am on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 449

    In fact, no. Not all teachers show this kind of excellence and professionalism in their work, esp. at the high school.

    Consider the following "Evidence of Practice in Action" report from one of the high school PLCs. (Find the complete report at this url:

    Asked to list a SMART goal (a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound objective), these teachers list the following:

    "How can ipads be used effetively in the [xyz] classroom?"

    That's not a goal at all. Nor does it list any means of evaluation.

    The teachers are asked to list the following
    "Decribe the conclusiones you have drown from your data and document the effectiveness of each key instructional practice."

    They respond

    "The idpads can be used to facilitate learning and add depth to our assessments. There are still many unknowns as to how this ia all going to look..."

    O.M.G. They have no clue! They can't read the instructions on a form! Their writing is vague and meaningless (ironic, since they are supposed to teach writing!).

    Now, there are many Evidence of Practice reports in action that are better, even at the high school. Although, there are some EoP reports that are completely missing!

    And, some of the teachers in this group I believe are good ones.

    But.....this report stinks. It should get an F. And, this particular PLC group didn't even bother to file an EoP report the last two times all the other teachers were required to do so.

    And yet......They are ALL great teachers. They ALL do an equally fantastic, thorough, dedicated job?

    Um, no.

    And the kicker is, NO ONE in the administration will call them out on it. No principal reviews these reports and stands up to say, "This is unacceptable. This shows no evidence of you using your PLC time wisely and carefully to improve educational practice. Go back and redo it."

  • Sparo73 posted at 9:49 am on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    Sparo73 Posts: 1214

    I am pretty sure you will find the same actions performed by all of the teachers in the Northfield school district when it comes to their programs.

  • parentvoice posted at 8:32 am on Fri, Aug 2, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 449

    Here's what's great about this: a teacher recognizes that an existing program needs improvement (doesn't wallow in complacency that, since it's in Northfield High, it's already superb and as fab as possible). He develops a plan that is built around what the needs of his students are, not what's most convenient for him. Bonus: he's actually making relevant educational use of the ipads.

    Awesome job Mr. Jorgenson. We need more like you!


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