GFPS piloting two programs next school year

Great Falls Public Schools is piloting two programs for the upcoming school year.

Beckie Frisbee, one of the district’s curriculum coordinators, told the school board about the programs during their May 8 board meeting.

The first is the Achieve 3000 and Actively Learn program and Step Up to Writing as an alternative curriculum and intervention program for special education English in high school.

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Frisbee said that when the district adopted the new English Language Arts program it shifted direction and intervention teachers were encouraged to use the new materials and determine if it was a good fit or if other options were needed.

Great Falls High School is planning to have two special education teachers using the programs in three sections of English 1-2, three sections of English 3-4, one section of English 5-6 and one section of English 7-8, serving about 80 students with individualized education programs in the areas of reading and/or written expression.

The program would run for the 2023-2024 school year.

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The district is funding the program through existing grants, with an additional $6 per student fee for the Actively Learn program, according to district staff.

Part of the curriculum includes Morphology Plus, which is covered by student services, and training is $1,500 per teacher.

Frisbee told the board that as they’ve adopted the new ELA curriculum, they found some of the special education students needed more help and the pilot program is intended to address that.

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The programs are targeted at students who are not reading at grade level and have been identified by the district with an IEP.

The second pilot program will be at C.M. Russell High School.

It’s the Happiness Tool Kit: Everyday Skills for Thriving in the 21st Century pilot course.

It’s a semester-long course focused on healthy habits to help students navigate “what can often seem like an anxiety-ridden, stressful world.”

The course includes journaling, drawing, volunteering, meditating and sharing opinions during class discussions, according to district staff.

“There is a lot of stress for being a teenager,” Frisbee told the board.

Discussion and “happiness homework” topics will include social connection, screen time, nutrition, sleep, physical
activity, and time management,” according to staff.

The course was designed at Yale University for college students, but when it was designed, they created a version for 14-19-year-old students that will be used by GFPS.

Frisbee said CMR has done a lot of work toward student wellness and community and that staff will look for a mix of students in the class to include some staff believes can benefit from the class and also some that might be good role models.