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December 14, 2018

11/15/2018 3:20:00 PM
NB School Board gets update on assessing state 'needs support' status

When the state comprehensive assessment scores were released earlier this fall, and the new evaluation data replacing the old MMR system of evaluating districts came out-- North Branch  district was attached to a good new-bad news type scenario.  It had sub-categories of pupils (along with 400 other districts) “needing state support” but it also showed above state average achievement in attendance percentages and English  Language Learning  performance measurements.

Last week the school board  was advised by Learning and Curriculm Director David Treichel,  that the district won’t get physical assistance (ie: extra personnel) from the MN Department of Education, but the state will provide program support.
The district is still in the process of aligning its accountability system with new federal standards under the Every Child Succeeds Act (replaces No Child Left Behind) and the district is doing a comprehensive assessment on correcting its ‘needs support’ status in the Special Education pupil graduation  rate category.

Treichel said identifying a “root cause”  for the low grad rate in special ed is the aim, although in reality the district will respond individually to each student’s situation.  He gave the example of one pupil who has been participating in extended education/credits programs for seven years, who has finally gotten the credits needed for a high school diploma.

The School Board reviewed testing results the state uses to assess how well districts are doing in math and reading.  Treichel spoke at length about a “gap” in scoring,  when comparing free and reduced price meal students with students not enrolled in that income-indexed aid program.  

Treichel said the immediate goal is narrowing this gap by five percent.  

The district recently also undertook a “world’s best workforce” self-review and established kindergarten readiness, grade 3 literacy and college and career readiness goals, among others.

Board member Tim MacMillan commented that as one Board member who has heard a host of goals presented a few times now, and also heard about them not being met, said,“...we need to stop hearing about looking we need to DO the improving.
“I know we can do better. Some numbers (in the test report) are alarming,” MacMillan added.  He promised that as a Board member, “I will support what you need.”

Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton assured the School Board that among other efforts-- the principal and assistant principal at Sunrise Elementary School are personally providing intervention level instruction to help boost reading skills.  

One of the standards the district had hoped to hit was getting 60 percent of preschool readiness class students “on target” for state standards in letter sound fluency. The district achieved 43.8 percent at the end of 2018.  Sixty-five percent of third graders in 2016-2017 achieved “proficiency in reading” at the third grade level but this dipped to 57 percent last year.

Henton told the Board that Professional Learning Communities (in-school staff development) are meeting weekly. The PLCs used to meet four times a year.

She stressed,  “Every day we come here to boost student achievement.”

In other matters: the ThoughtExchange is a computerized survey and interactive input program used in North Branch.  It was activated October 4 through 14  and the results were presented to the Board last week.  

Patrick Tepoorten, district community relations,  said 143 people logged in to provide feedback and rank responses regarding the electronic topic:  what are the most important considerations the district faces?

The top answer was ensuring small class size and quality teachers. The trades or vocational instruction need to have some more focus and resources.  Consistency in the classroom climate could also use some attention; this involves everything from updating homework tasks and student information systems in a timely manner,  to giving students a firm understanding of behavior standards and punishment.  And, survey participants want more field trips.

ThoughtExchange feedback is going to be useful in drafting the two-year Continuous Improvement Plan, which starts in 2018.  The final touches on this overall policy and district directives are being applied.

Up until this year North Branch followed a five-year strategic plan, which has run its course.

The district’s financial director Dr. Jon Ellerbusch told the Board the full 2017-2018 year-end audit is being presented in December.  He said the budget for 2019 will be revised at that time. The Board did vote to set designated Severance and Q Comp accounts at approximately $282,000 and $89,000 respectively. (Q Comp provides instructional quality supports.)

At the outset of the meeting former School Board Director Cathie Pascavage was thanked and presented with a memento and certificate for her work while on the Board.  

The Board is back to six members in January after balloting for three seats opening (incumbents Kirby Ekstrom, Sarah Grovender,  and Kevin Bollman top vote tallies).  Heather Osagiede won in a two-way special race for the seat expiring in 2023. Also on the Board are MacMillan and Daryl Goebel.

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