By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE What does it take to develop a strong future workforce?
Since the World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) bill was passed in 2013, public schools in Minnesota have been required to create an annual report and summary on this each school year.
These are the five goals:
• All children are ready for school.
• All third-graders can read at grade level.
• All racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed.
• All students are ready for career and college.
• All students graduate from high school.
HLWW’s district assessment coordinator, Kelli Westling, presented the district’s plan at the school board meeting Sept. 25. The plan will be approved in November.
The presentation addressed the question of, “Why is Minnesota focused on this idea?” by listing reasons from the Minnesota Department of Education website, as follows:
• Our population is aging.
• Seventy percent of jobs will require more than a high school diploma by 2018.
• We don’t have qualified candidates to fill many good-paying jobs.
• The fastest growing segment of our future workforce is students of color, and they currently have the state’s lowest graduation rate.
• Minnesota has one of the worst black-white achievement gaps in the country.
“To me, that is the most racist statement we could put on a piece of paper,” Board Member Charles Bush commented. “There are other factors that cause these people not to do as well as, say, some of the other people. It has nothing to do with color.”
Westling said, “I don’t disagree,” before continuing with the presentation.
Highlights are as follows:
• Kindergarten readiness In the 2016-17 school year at Humphrey and Winsted elementary schools, 90 percent of students who attended preschool and went on to kindergarten were ready, according to the Minnesota Early Learning Standards/Early Childhood Indicators of Progress(ECIPs). This is up from 87 percent in 2015-2016.
• Third-grade literacy In the 2016-17 school year, 50 percent of HLWW’s third-graders reached proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). This is down from 65 percent proficiency in the 2015-2016 school year.
• Closing achievement gaps In 2016-17, 18 percent of special education students were proficient in reading, and 13 percent were proficient in math. Among students from lower income families (defined as those who receive free/reduced lunch prices), 42 percent were proficient in reading, and 51 percent were proficient in math. These numbers are down from 2015-16, but HLWW remains above the state average.
• Career and college readiness During advisory times built into the school day, all HLWW high school students created college and career path plans
• Graduation rate In 2016, 90 percent of HLWW seniors graduated. Four students dropped out, one is continuing, and two are of unknown status.
To move toward the district-wide goals, HLWW plans to get more involved in identifying students who are not progressing, and to intervene.
This year, HLWW saw a widespread decline in MCA test scores. A few systems the district is using to improve progress include Title One support, Reading Corps, computer-adaptive assessments, Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services (ADSIS), and more.
Two elementary teachers are being trained to handle students with dyslexia.
“We’re seeing more students come in with dyslexic tendencies,” Westling said.
Superintendent Brad Sellner said that with students of varying needs, state requirements can sometimes be a challenge. Under the current system, students are considered to have either met proficiency or not there is no partial credit. Sellner said this could give schools incentive to work with students who are close to proficiency, instead of focusing on student growth and progress.