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Big Stone Lake cabin

A SUCCESSFUL PHEASANT HUNT for these hunters from Red Lake Falls. The group shot these pheasants during the opener on Saturday, Oct. 15 on public land. They come every year for the Pheasant opener and stay at a cabin at Sunset View.

Alicia’s Daycare earns Parent Aware Rating from PASR

A local pre-kindergarten early education program is the newest local program to earn their Parent Aware Rating, which lets area parents know that they are using kindergarten readiness best practices to help local children.

Alicia’s Day Care, run by Alicia Lee of Ortonville, has been using the Parent Aware for School Readiness (PASR) since she began operating her day care nearly a year and a half ago.

“Alicia really deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing for Minnesota’s youngest children,” said Ericca Maas, Executive Director of PASR, a non-profit that supports the Ratings.  “It’s one thing to make claims about quality, but Alicia is proving that she is actually using best practices.”

Alicia volunteered to adopt kindergarten-readiness best practices, and verify that fact by obtaining a Parent Aware Rating.  The Parent Aware Ratings are a Consumer Reports-like service that helps parents find child care and preschools in their area that are using kindergarten-readiness best practices.

“When I began my daycare, I knew I wanted to try something different that would be beneficial and helpful to the kids,” stated Alicia.”So I am starting out as a two star which I feel is really helping prepare these kids for their next step in education.”

The best practices measured by the Ratings include use of proven, evidence-based curriculum, teacher training, teaching materials, and teaching methods.

“I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I have a hard time spotting these best practices just by a quick visit,” said Maas.  “The Parent Aware Ratings help parents know who is using best practices, something that is nearly impossible for most parents like me to spot on our own.”

Lee stated that a representative came out and spent 20-40 hours working with her in this program. Alicia said that it has been going very well.

“The kids really enjoy some of the things we do and adapt very well in their learning process,” said Alicia. 

PASR notes that up to 90 percent  of brain development occurs before age five, making the first five years of life a critically important time to have children in stimulating learning environments. Minnesota isn’t doing well on this front. Every year, thousands of children arrive in kindergarten unprepared, and too many of them never catch up in later grades.   

“This announcement is exciting for the whole community, not just the honoree” said Maas.  “The whole community benefits from the increased availability of high quality early education.”

Alicia has been given a number of tools to promote her Rating, such as yard signs, banners, window stickers, and a customized web video. An ad campaign also promotes providers with Ratings. These materials will all help promote the providers’ high quality to parents.

In addition to the promotion materials, providers may also be able to serve children receiving millions of dollars worth of state-government-funded Early Learning Scholarships, which can only be used with Parent Aware-rated programs.

With few exceptions, any licensed child care provider is eligible to adopt the best practices and get a Rating.  Hundreds of additional providers are volunteering for the program every year.  Providers who do volunteer get help adopting the best practices from state-funded quality improvement coaches and grants.

Over the past four years, nearly 3,000 Minnesota programs have earned their Ratings, including other local programs that earned their Ratings prior to this group of programs. A full listing of rated programs in the area can be found by doing an online search at

Big Stone City, SD School scores second in State

Last week, the 2016 South Dakota Report Card, a review of schools’ performance based on multiple indicators, were made available online. Big Stone City School received top level SPI scores and is among the highest ranked schools in the state. Big Stone City Elementary School was given the classification of Status School for being in the top 10 percent of the state. Big Stone City Middle School was given the classification of Exemplary School for being the second highest SPI score in the state among middle schools.

For two years, Big Stone City School has celebrated top level SPI scores. These amazing scores reflect on the combined effort put forth by students, teachers, and parents. The only way to find success with education comes from everyone working together to help students grow.

The School Performance Index (SPI) score is determined through a combination of student attendance, achievement, and academic growth. To access the 2016 Report Card, visit and click on the “2016 Report Card” banner.

In South Dakota, student performance on the state assessment shows that the percentage of students scoring proficient (at or above Level 3) has increased from 49.5 percent to 52.6 percent in English language arts and from 41.3 percent to 44.3 percent in math. The percentage of South Dakota students attending 94 percent or more of enrolled days has improved slightly over last year, from 79.7 percent to 80.2 percent.

The argument arises that the success of Big Stone City School comes from the small school factor. There is a belief that just reducing the size of a school or the number of students in a classroom will magically increase learning in students. Although there is no denying the benefits of a smaller teacher to student ratio, there is more needed to have an effective educational program. If it was just the small school factor that made Big Stone City School scores great, one would expect to find only small schools with top SPI scores but that is not the case. The mixture of small to large schools that have earned top level SPI scores appear to show there are more important factors that affect learning than the size of the school

Another argument that is consistently raised involves the demographic makeup of the students which makes a difference in school success. Nationwide, schools with high populations of students classified with a low socioeconomic status struggle to help student find academic success. Big Stone City School population places higher than the state average for students categorized as economically disadvantaged. These students’ struggles should impact their learning, yet the Big Stone City School students are finding a way to rise above.

As with other outstanding schools in South Dakota, Big Stone City School’s greatest success comes from the dedicated staff that diligently works with all students and the programs implemented to help them grow and succeed. The highly qualified staff deserves credit for the challenge they have undertaken and the progress they have made in the education of the students of Big Stone City School.

One program that has been instrumental in the success at Big Stone City School is the state recommended Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). The MTSS process has a bases that academics and behaviors are intertwined. By meeting both academic needs and behavioral concerns, the entire child is being helped. Students are continually monitored to determine needed interventions and growth.

Other components that contribute to a successful educational program at Big Stone City School includes the wonderful opportunities offered to students. Hands-on experiences are a key way for students to learn which is one of the reasons Big Stone City School involves students in a plethora of field trips. These field trips are designed to expand the classroom learning and include visiting Fort Sisseton, ValleyFair for math and science day, and theatre productions. The highlight of 4th grade is spending four days traveling around the state to visit the many historic sites, including the capital in Pierre, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave, and the Badlands. The education that students receive through these opportunities cannot be duplicated in a classroom and has become an essential component to the educational process at Big Stone City School.

Other school-wide opportunities special to Big Stone City students over the last few years have involved a painter, a poet, and a sculptor teaching students through the artist-in-residence program; an annual theater production put on by students; and a day of skiing. These experiences are ones that many students would never have been able to have without the opportunities being provided at Big Stone City School.

Big Stone City School is excited by these results and continues to strive daily to make a difference for all students. The most exciting change for this next year involves the new technology made available through the Classroom Innovation Grant that allowed for $50,000 to be spent increasing 21st Century Skills in students. Big Stone City School will continually look to the future and ways to improve education, but also celebrate the success that the current program has found.

Lindsay Plathe
Cabin for rentTodds_cabin.htmlTodds_cabin.htmlCabin

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