by Mike Knaak
As students head back to school this week, teachers and administrators received their own report cards on student performance.
The state Department of Education released the latest performance scores based on five indicators – achievement and progress on state reading and math tests over time, progress towards English language proficiency, graduation rates and consistent attendance.
The results recognize top performers as well as highlight areas that need improvement and attention.
For the St. Cloud school district, there was some good news.
Three St. Cloud district schools were recognized for performing with the highest 5 percent of schools in the state in specific categories.
Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph was recognized by the state for consistent attendance because approximately 97 percent of the English language learners consistently attend school. Discovery Community School was recognized for Asian student attendance and Lincoln Elementary School was recognized for English language proficiency students’ consistent attendance.
The new accountability system, called North Star, expands accountability from standardized test scores to include more indicators and provides support to help schools improve.
The North Star system includes three main areas: publicly reporting data, recognizing schools for success and identifying schools for support.
School districts receive feedback for the five categories of accountability: academic achievement, academic progress, English language proficiency, attendance rates and graduation rates.
“The accountability data provides us with a more holistic view of student indicators of success,” said Sylvia Huff, the St. Cloud school district’s research assessment and grants director. “It allows us to look at specific student groups in order to determine strengths and areas in need of more targeted support.”
Huff said that the accountability scores are examined with other data collected so that administrators and staff can do a better job of interpreting the scores and act to ensure student success.
“We are focused on well-rounded education and the total child,” Huff said. “Test scores are just one part of a well-rounded education.”
The average graduation rate for the last three years for all Apollo students is 81.28 percent compared with the state rate of 72.96 percent. At Tech, it’s 79.39 percent.
At Apollo the graduation rate for special education students fell below the 67 percent threshold, which means the school qualifies for support to improve.
The state calculates the graduation rates for students who finish in the typical four years but also for students who graduate in seven years. The seven-year group includes special education and English learners.
Carol Potter, the district’s executive director of student services, says historically there’s a been a gap with special education scores and that the district is looking at scores for specific disability groups so they can have access to the core curriculum.
At Kennedy, the math achievement rate of 55.5 percent topped the district average of 40.3 percent but fell short of the state average of 56.2 percent. In reading achievement, Kennedy scored 58.1 percent, higher than the district’s average of 46.3 percent but below the state average of 59.2 percent.
The report also scored schools for academic progress from year to year. Schools received three scores: percent of students improving, percent of students who maintained achievement level and percent of students who decreased performance or continued to not make progress.
At Kennedy, 17.9 percent of students improved their reading progress while 49.3 maintained their progress compared with 20.6 percent and 38.1 percent district wide.
In math, 8.4 percent improved and 52.3 percent maintained progress at Kennedy compared with 13.4 percent and 37.4 percent district wide.
Kennedy’s English proficiency score of 69.9 percent topped both the district average of 61.3 percent and the state average of 67 percent.
The percent of Apollo students meeting or exceeding academic achievement scores are 39.6 percent for reading and 32 percent for math compared with statewide scores of 59.2 percent for reading and 56.2 for math.
Parents and community members can review North Star data online for schools and districts by visiting the Minnesota Report Card. Visitors to the site will find information about schools recognized for excellence or prioritized for support, and learn what factors led to their identifications. The report card provides information about a school’s overall performance, and options to look closer at the data to identify areas for improvement or areas of success.
School officials suggest that parents who have questions should contact their school or district office.