The PAES (Practical Assessment Exploration System) is a simulated work assessment and hands-on curriculum lab where students learn by “doing” in a structured environment. The PAES Lab is housed on the first floor of the north wing at Saint Peter Middle School in room 124. 

This program is used not only by Saint Peter students, but also students from throughout the Minnesota Valley Educational District (MVED) which also includes Cleveland, Nicollet, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Maple River, and St. Clair. The lead classroom teacher is Rachel Baerbock from MVED, while Kelsey Jaycox-Hutchins, also from MVED, takes care of referrals and program questions.

In the lab, students are able to explore five career field areas including business/marketing, computer/technology, construction/industrial, processing/production, and consumer/service. In each of those areas, students complete tasks using real tools and equipment. Tasks start out at a basic level and build in difficulty and complexity as the student’s skills increase.

“We create a real world experience for our students and when they come into the PAES Lab they become ‘employees’ and the staff are their ‘supervisors,’” Baerbock said. “When they get here, they punch in on a computer time clock like they would on a real job and then they begin working on one of the 264 job tasks under the supervision of our staff. They try out a variety of jobs, like alphabetizing, running a cash register, cooking, and electrical wiring.”

While “on the job,” the students/employees are expected to communicate professionally, learn/follow safety procedures, solve problems, stay on task, and much more in order to be successful at their future jobs. By going through the PAES lab students will have the opportunity to experience and practice job skills that will make them more prepared for the world of work as well as find direction for their desired career paths.

PAES is a formal “Exploratory Assessment,” which means that students will be exploring different career fields but will also be assessed on their work quality, speed, professionalism/behavior, endurance, ability to solve problems, level of independence, ability to follow directions, communicate with others, and more. 

This information is collected to show areas of student strength, where they need improvement, to determine appropriate accommodations/assistive technology for the workplace, and their level of competitive employability skills as compared to their peers. Students attend 1½-hour sessions five days a week for one or more semesters and must complete a referral process in order to participate. The PAES Lab is open to students of ALL ability levels who have an IEP.

For more information on the PAES Lab please email Kelsey Jaycox-Hutchins at

(SHOWN IN PHOTO ABOVE) SPHS student Edson Ruiz works on shipment task during his time at the PAES Lab earlier this semester.

Rachel Baerbock is the lead classroom teacher for the PAES Lab, which is located on the north wing of the Saint Peter Middle School building.

SPPS paraprofessional Scott Blank (right) works with a student on how to measure ingredients during a baking assignment at the PAES Lab.