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Marshall students making some progress

School district discusses long-term educational plans

MARSHALL — The Marshall Public School District had mixed success in meeting its long-term educational goals last year, said Superintendent Scott Monson. While the district made progress toward closing achievement gaps in reading, other goals — like increasing graduation rates — weren’t met.

However, Monson said the school district still has time to work toward its goals.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Monson gave a presentation on the district’s progress toward its World’s Best Workforce and Achievement and Integration goals for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Right now, we’re in the process … of looking back at last year’s plans,” Monson said.

Under Minnesota law, school districts need to have a World’s Best Workforce plan — a long-term plan to help meet certain educational goals. Those goals include making sure all children are ready for school, that they read well by third grade, that racial and economic achievement gaps are closed, that students are ready for careers and college, and that all students graduate from high school. School districts are required to publish an annual report which gets submitted to the state Department of Education, and hold an annual public meeting on the WBWF plan.

The Marshall district hasn’t set a date for its public meeting yet, but Monson said it will likely be held in November of December.

MPS set a goal for 70% of its 3- and 4-year-old students to be proficient in language and literacy standards in the last school year.

“We didn’t reach that goal,” Monson said. Only 63.3% of those students met or exceeded proficiency. However, there was a big difference between the number of 3-year-olds meeting standards and the number of 4-year-olds meeting standards. Almost 75% of the 4-year-olds were meeting language and literacy standards, compared to about 39% of 3-year-olds.

Monson said this was likely because the assessment system used to measure the children’s skills was designed for students attending school all day, every day — something the 3-year-olds at MPS don’t do. In the future, he said, the district will probably only assess the 4-year-olds.

MPS set a goal for 67% of third-graders to score at or above average in a spring reading assessment last school year. Monson said the district came short of that goal, with 62% of third grade students at West Side Elementary scoring at or above average for their grade level.

There was some positive progress made last year, however. Monson said MPS tried to take the reading achievement gap between white and non-white students down to 29.4%. Based on state test results, the gap was actually narrowed down to 28.8% in the past school year.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction for us,” he said.

Based on the results of student surveys, MPS also met its goals for career and college readiness, Monson said. A total of 78.62% of students said they felt programs like Ramp-Up to Readiness helped them explore future careers, and 84.27% of students said they felt the district’s Postsecondary Plan helped them plan for life after high school.

Progress toward MPS’ graduation goals was more mixed, however. The district had set a goal of having a five-year graduation rate of 95%, but the 2018 graduation rate was only 85.6%. Monson said graduation rates tend to fluctuate from year to year.

The district did meet its graduation goals at MATEC, Monson said. The goal was to have a six-year graduation rate of 58% in 2018, and the actual rate was 82.6%.

Monson also talked about MPS’s progress toward its Achievement and Integration goals. While the purpose of the Achievement and Integration program is to close the achievement gap for students of different racial and economic backgrounds, Monson said it has some overlap with the district’s WBWF goals.

“We know we have work to do,” to get toward some of those goals, Monson said.

One goal was to increase the graduation rates for black students to 60.6%, and increase the graduation rate for Hispanic students to 63.1%. That goal wasn’t met last year — black students had a graduation rate of 40%, and Hispanic students had a graduation rate of 46.2%.

Marshall High School Principal Brian Jones talked about what factors might have affected those graduation rates.

“I think the largest reason is the number of students who come to us older,” Jones said. Some of the students who come to MPS at older ages haven’t had a lot of schooling before, and have a shorter time to try and catch up before the end of high school, he said. “It’s difficult to compress 13 years of formal education into a small window.”

Another challenge facing some students, Jones said, is deciding whether to stay in school or drop out and enter the workforce. Some students aren’t motivated to stay and graduate when they could be working to help their families, he said.

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