Franken praises Kingsland for college in the schools
SPRING VALLEY — Kingsland's class of 2016 got to spend its last day of school with Sen. Al Franken.
The Friday morning visit was prompted by a letter Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald sent to Franken that grabbed the senator's attention. McDonald told Franken about the district's College in the Schools programs and track record with helping students earn college credit while in high school.
More than 50 percent of the district's juniors and seniors are involved in college programs. This year, seven students will graduate from high school with an associate's degree in hand.
"This is a great model of something that I've been advocating in Washington," Franken said. "And it's because what I do in D.C. is so often taking what I see here in Minnesota and bringing it to D.C."
Franken took a walking tour of the school's classrooms, chatted with students preparing for graduation and held a roundtable with teachers. But the real focus of the visit was the opportunities these courses provide students while in high school.
McDonald figures students have completed about $115,000 in college credits this year, a figure Franken praised, and noted he's worked to incentivize it in recent education bills.
"It's really about the college affordability," he said.
Additionally, the district also highlighted its science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, programs. Students are able to earn credit in STEM programs through Riverland Community College, with credits transferrable throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.
The high school also provides the opportunity to earn college credit through Project Lead the Way, with credits honored by the University of Minnesota and others.
"We're just a small school in southern Minnesota, but because of dedicated staff we're able to have great programs," McDonald said, noting many rural districts struggle to provide this type of programming to their students.
"I think what drew him to our school, even though we face those challenges like everyone else, our kids have done very well," he said. "That's where Kingsland is a leader."
McDonald said the school initially struggled with losing kids to Post-Secondary Enrollment Options outside of the district, but bringing the programs directly to Kingsland has provided a lot more opportunity for students and has saved the district money because it's not losing students.
"You can take back to D.C. the great stuff that Minnesota does, and there are so many things that Minnesota does better than the rest of the country," Franken said. "And when we do great things I want to be there, I want to see it, I want to talk to people, I want to experience it, and I want to bring it back to Washington."