Good news Sartell-St. Stephen school district

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by Dave DeMars

At its regular Sept. 17 board meeting the Sartell-St. Stephen school board heard a good news report in the form of a comprehensive 2017-18 District Assessment Results. The report detailed results from the Northstar Ratings Every Student Succeeds Act, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and the American College Testing. The report was presented by Kay Nelson, assistant superintendent of Learning Services, Marie Pangerl, district assessment coordinator, Michele Rogers, Early Childhood coordinator and building principals.

After the presentation of the 2017-18 assessment results, there was further discussion on the continuous improvement goals for 2018-19.

Nelson’s report covered the makeup of the student body (92 percent white) and the fact that only about 15 percent of students in the district required special education of some kind. Also, only 15 percent of students qualified for free or reduced lunch, and only 1.2 percent students had a language other than English as their primary language. High numbers in these areas tend to correlate strongly with lower overall achievement results.

State releases school accountability scores

The ESSA report covered five major areas; Academic Achievement, Academic Progress, English Language Proficiency, Graduation Rate, and Attendance Consistency.

Academic achievement was measured in two major areas; math and reading. In the area of math, students scored 19 percent higher than the state average; in reading the score was 14 percent higher.

In the area of academic progress, students in the district again showed higher performance than state results on a student growth matrix; 2.59 compared with the state average of 2.13 in math, and 2.50 compared with the state average of 2.39. Only in the area of progress in English learner proficiency did the district score lower than state results.

In the area of graduation rates, the guidelines were to have a graduation rate of 90 percent with no student group having less than an 85 percent rate. The state average did not meet the guidelines (82.42 percent across the state). The Sartell-St. Stephen district greatly exceeded the guidelines with nearly 98 percent of students graduating on time after four years.

Consistency in attendance was lower than the guideline rate of 95 percent with no student group lower than 90 percent attendance. District 748 attendance scored at 91 percent with state results at 86 percent.

Two schools, Pine Meadow and Sartell Middle School received special recognition for being in the top 5 percent in Minnesota for progress made in various categories such as multi-racial math progress.

In the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results, the district scored significantly higher across the board with scores that were as much as 20 percent higher than state averages. These scores are compared grade by grade. In fifth grade mathematics for example the district scored 78.3 percent overall proficiency while the state average was 54.7 percent. In math, reading and science, the district scored higher than state averages.

The ACT is a test that measures college readiness of students about to graduate in four benchmark areas; math, reading, English and science. Overall, the district met all four areas with 52 percent of graduates considered ready for college.

The assessment results were followed by principals of the various schools detailing how each school had fared in meeting results of the 2017-18 Continuous Improvement Goals which were set within the district. At all levels, K-12, there were goals that had not been achieved and modifications were proposed so better results could be achieved in the the 2018-19 school year. The purpose of the continuous improvement goals is to strive for improvement. For example one goal was to have 100 percent graduation of all students. The likelihood of achieving the goal is low, but with changes in methodology and curriculum, improvements can be made and steps taken toward reaching the goal.

“If we keep writing goals and getting the same result, we need to make some changes,” said Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert.

Other reports

Schwiebert reported an increase in enrollment for 2018-19 school year of about 118 students. This is not a final number however. The increase would give the district a bit more money in the budget for the coming year said Schwiebert. Schwiebert noted one curious occurrence is a large number of students coming to Sartell from out of state. Part of this might be due to a heated economy and people moving to areas where they can find work. One area is the St. Cloud- Sartell area.

Pine Meadow and the middle school have the biggest growth areas, Schwiebert said.

Project manager Lee Gruen reported construction of the new high-school has continued to show overall progress, and maintained the current schedule. With about 110 workers on site every day, progress toward a late July 2019 finish of construction remains a probability. The construction budget is still on pace with no unexpected costs incurred.

Action items

The board took the following actions:

Approved a resolution for hiring new personnel;

Approved the Minnesota Trust Resolution that will allow the district to have an additional option for investing district funds in order to ensure the best possible rate of return;

Approved the revision of six board policies including 404-Employment Background Checks, 418-Drug-Free Workplace/Drug-Free School, 419-Tobacco-Free Environment, 420-Students And Employees With Sexually Transmitted Infections And Diseases And Certain Other Communicable Diseases And Infectious Conditions, 424-License Status, 427-Workload Limits For Certain Special-Education Teachers;

Approved lease agreements with Pinecone Central Park St. Cloud Orthopedics Field (formerly Champion Field) and Pinecone Central Park Soccer Field;

Approved preliminary 2018-19 levy. The levy 2018 is payable 2019 and is revenue for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

photo by Dave DeMars
Student Lauren Lindmeier makes her first presentation to the school board at the Sept. 17 meeting. Lindmeier, along with students Yash Hindka and Elijah Lawson, will be the student liaisons to the board keeping them abreast of the student events and happenings at each of the schools within the district.

photo by Dave DeMars Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert explains a point about student enrollment at the Sept. 17 school board meeting.

photo by Dave DeMars
Marie Pangerl, district assessment coordinator, leads the board through a discussion of the 2017-18 District Assessment Results.

photo by Dave DeMars
Early Childhood Coordinator Michele Rogers points out some pertinent information about the performance of 4-year-olds in the areas of mathematics and reading. Students are expected to be able to count to 20 and identify 10 letters of the alphabet.

Author: Dave DeMars

Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at

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