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High marks for Alexandria Public Schools

A new Minnesota Department of Education report card on all public schools was released Thursday, Aug. 30, and the Alexandria School District received overall high marks.

The report card is part of the new North Star accountability system for measuring and evaluating school performance and it is a departure from older systems that focused solely on standardized test results.This new system was designed to satisfy the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law enacted in December 2015. ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind.

"Under No Child Left Behind we only looked at state testing," said Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at the Alexandria School District. "Testing is an important tool for measuring how a school is doing, but it is only one of them. It is like trying to diagnose strep throat by only taking your temperature. You also need to look in the patient's throat and ears."

Sansted said that test scores alone have often been used to punish schools. Through this new system test scores are now being used as just one factor to demonstrate where support is needed and to also identify schools to celebrate.

The new North Star system looks at a broader set of related factors to evaluate overall school performance. Those factors are:

• Reading and math achievement on test scores, which reveal how many students are performing at or above grade-level.

• Progress and growth in reading and math over time, which measures whether students' achievement levels on academic tests are maintained or improving.

• Progress toward English language proficiency, which is a category specifically for non-English speaking students who are working toward proficiency in English.

• Four-year and seven-year graduation rates, which measures whether students are graduating within four years or if they need extra support and time to complete their diploma.

• Consistent attendance, which measures whether students are attending school regularly.

The North Star system takes these five assessment categories and uses them to evaluate and determine whether a school is going to need increased support from the state if they are struggling. If a school is performing well, these factors are used to determine if they should be recognized for excellent performance.

Because they performed at minimum or higher than minimum standards, no schools in the Alexandria School District were designated for additional support. A news release from the district highlighted two schools that were recognized for excellence in their work toward supporting students.

Carlos Elementary is being recognized for being in the highest 5 percent of schools in the state for math progress overall; and consistent attendance overall, in special education, and with students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Discovery Middle School is also being recognized for math and reading progress overall in the Asian student category.

When compared with the Minnesota state averages, Alexandria Public Schools outperformed their peers in reading and math achievement test scores, according to the school district.

In math, Alexandria students outperformed their state peers by 13.9 percentage points (Alexandria 70.1; State 56.2). In reading, Alexandria students outpaced their state peers by 7.6 percentage points (spring 2018: Alexandria, 66.7; State, 59.1).

The district also performed high on four-year graduation rates and student attendance. According to the North Star system report card, 90.2 percent of Alexandria students graduate in the traditional four-year time frame compared to the 82.7 percent state average. Further, 88.3 percent of Alexandria students consistently attend school on a regular basis, compared to the 85.6 percent state average.

Sansted said that the good marks reflect the community's value on education, but there is also room for improvement.

"As we look at goals for the 2018-2019 school year, we see places we want to go to improve how we can continue to support student growth at all levels," he said.

At the Sept. 17 school board meeting, representatives from each school are expected to present their goals and action plans for this school year to the school board and begin implementation.

Other schools' results

The Brandon-Evansville School District exceeded state averages overall in reading (B-E 63.3; State 59.2) and math (B-E 79.3; State 56.2) achievement, and consistent attendance (B-E 88.9; State 85.6). Brandon-Evansville Schools overall performed slightly below the stage average in four-year graduation rates (B-E 80.0; State 82.7).

The Osakis School District also exceeded state averages overall in reading (Osakis 64.3; State 59.2) and math (Osakis 69.6; State 56.2) achievement, consistent attendance (Osakis 95.3; State 85.6), and four-year graduation rates (Osakis 97.0; State 82.7).

The following are achievement scores in math and reading broken down by individual schools within the Alexandria, Brandon-Evansville and Osakis districts.

Alexandria Public School District

Math Achievement — High school 45.5 percent; Discovery Middle School 71.4; Carlos Elementary 78.8; Garfield Elementary 79.4; Lincoln Elementary 79.0; Miltona Elementary 73.3; Voyager Elementary 72.6; Woodland Elementary 76.2. State average 56.2 percent.

Reading Achievement - High school 59.1 percent; Discovery Middle School 68.9; Carlos Elementary 67.3; Garfield Elementary 52.4; Lincoln Elementary 74.1; Miltona Elementary 60.0;

Voyager Elementary 66.3; Woodland Elementary 67.2. State average 59.2 percent.

Brandon-Evansville School District

Math Achievement - High School 56.0; Middle School 79.1; Brandon Elementary 87.1; Evansville Elementary 84.0. State Avg: 56.2 percent.

Reading Achievement - High School 62.1; Middle School 56.4; Brandon Elementary 64.5; Evansville Elementary: 73.3. State Avg: 59.2 percent.

Osakis School District

Math Achievement - Osakis Secondary 63.5; Osakis Elementary 74.4. State average 56.2 percent

Reading Achievement - Osakis Secondary 61.7; Osakis Elementary 66.4. State average 59.2 percent

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