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 toward 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 Sartell-St. Stephen and St. Cloud school districts, there was some good news.
Three St. Cloud district schools and two Sartell 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.
In Sartell, Pine Meadow Elementary School was recognized for overall math progress and for math progress achieved by students receiving free or reduced lunches.
Sartell Middle School was recognized for math progress made by Asian and multiracial student groups and for reading progress made by Hispanic, black and multiracial student groups.
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 the accountability scores are examined with other data collected so 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.”
In several categories, the Sartell-St. Stephen district exceeded the state average.
In reading achievement, Sartell students scored 73.10 percent compared with a 59.24 percent statewide average. In math achievement, Sartell students scored 76.08 percent compared with 57.54 percent statewide. Achievement scores are calculated by the number of students who meet or exceed standards divided by the number of all students tested.
Sartell students’ yearly progress in math and reading also exceeded the statewide average. In reading, Sartell scored 2.56 compared with 2.39 statewide and in math, Sartell scored 2.53 compared with 2.13 statewide.
Students attended 91 percent of days compared with 86.27 percent statewide.
Sartell’s four-year graduate rate of 97.91 percent topped the state level of 82.42 percent.
Sartell-St. Stephen fell below the statewide score for English language learners’ growth toward meeting individual performance targets. Sartell scored 52.5 compared with 66.99 across the state.
“We have a tradition of excellence in our school district and the fact our students continue to perform above state averages is a point of pride. These results provide a snapshot of our curricular program and provide an opportunity for us to review and refine our instructional practices and school expectations,” said Jeff Schwiebert, superintendent of the Sartell-St. Stephen school district in a statement accompanying the data.
In St. Cloud, 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 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.
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.
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 parents who have questions should contact their school or district office.