School song

The LS-H graduating class of 2019 claps along to the school song for the last time ever. 94% of the class graduated, exceeding school district goals. (Le Sueur County News file photo)

A report shared with the Le Sueur-Henderson School Board Monday, Nov. 4 found that the district is meeting and exceeding four out of five of its one-year academic goals for students, including benchmarks for graduation rates, lowering the achievement gap and more. 

Last year, a committee, made up of school administrators and board members, parents, teachers and one student, known as the World’s Best Workforce District Advisory Committee (WBWF), set goals for the 2018-19 school year to help the district meet its long-term objectives: ensure all students are ready for kindergarten, have all students reading at grade level by third grade, eliminate achievement gaps in the district, guarantee all students are college and career ready, and assure that all students graduate.

The report, delivered by Curriculum Coordinator Teri Burdorf, outlines the specific goals set by the WBWF committee, how the district measured up and what actions the district is taking to improve.

“I really do find this report to be valuable,” said School Board Chair Brigid Tuck. “And it’s really valuable for communicating with the community about what we see as our goals and then how we are actually trying to achieve those. There’s very tangible things in here for the community.”

Goal 1: All students ready for Kindergarten

This is the one area where the district failed to meet its one-year goal. The LS-H School District hoped to see an increase in the percentage of kindergartners showing proficiency in the NWEA literacy test, from 66.1% in 2017-18 to 69% in 2018-19. However, proficiency scores not only failed to rise, they dropped to 58.8% of students.

School absences appeared to have an impact on the decline, as 42.8% of students absent five to nine days out of the year were not proficient as were 47.6% of students absent for 10 days or more.

However, the district is expecting greater proficiency this year. At the end of the last school year, the district purchased a new early childhood curriculum and is continuing to work with Le Sueur and Sibley counties to screen children for readiness prior to entering kindergarten and public and private daycares to develop early childhood reading skills.

“Moving forward in that particular goal, we decided as a group it wasn’t so much about the Kindergarten literacy, but having students ready for Kindergarten,” said Burdorf. “So we want to focus our efforts for next year on reducing our number of Kindergartners that come in unscreened. So getting more community support, getting more into the daycares and talking with the health care providers and making sure all the students are screened so that we know if they need support before they get here.”

Goal 2: All students in third grade reading at grade-level

For the district’s second goal, the WBWF committee to increase third-grade winter NWEA literacy growth goals from 34.5% to 50%. The 2018-19 third-grade class surpassed expectations, with 58.3% of students meeting their growth goals.

To help students reach these goals, grade-level teachers have been meeting weekly in professional learning communities (PLCs) where they analyze student work to determine what content needs to be re-taught. In addition, schedules were modified this year so that students could receive individualized attention in addition to regular class time.

Goal 3: Eliminate the achievement gap

The school district exceeded its one-year goals again, reducing the achievement gap between students on free and reduced lunch and the rest of the class on spring MCA reading test scores from 21.8% to 13.6%. While more than half of Le Sueur-Henderson students demonstrated proficiency on the test, 38.9% of students on free and reduced lunch accomplished the same.

“It was nice to see that gap getting lower,” said Burdorf. “We want to continue to close that gap to 11% by spring of 2020.”

To address achievement gaps, Hilltop and Park Elementary have adopted “7 Mindsets” curriculum to meet the needs of students living with trauma. PLCs and individual intervention are also part of the plan to tackle the achievement gap.

Goal 4: All students career and college ready by graduation

Enrollment in AP courses is a key part of the districts’ plans to prepare students for coIlege. In the 2017-2018 school year, nearly four in ten high school seniors were enrolled in AP courses and the district want to boost that number up to 50%. The 2018-2019 senior class blew past that goal with more than two-thirds, 68.2% of the class taking college level courses.

While AP courses are primarily for college readiness, Burdorf noted that Le Sueur-Henderson has taken other steps to prepare students with different career paths in mind. The High School works with the local Rotary STRIVE program, holds “Giant time” for thirty minutes every week in which students participate in college and career readiness lessons and has partnered with Tri-City United and St. Peter Schools in working with a workforce development coordinator.

Goal 5: All students graduate

For the 2018-19 school year, the district focused on maintaining the previous year’s graduation rate of 93%. According to in-house data, Le Sueur-Henderson High School had a slightly higher graduation rate of 94%. However, this is not the official count and state data has yet to be released. Of the five students that did not graduate in the spring, two successfully graduated before the fall after finishing requirements in the summer, raising the total graduation rate to 96.6%.

Overall, Burdorf considers the the school’s progress to be successful. She expressed confidence in the benchmarks set by the WBWF committee, pointing to the diversity of the members’ perspectives.

“I think it’s really important to have all those different voices,” said Burdorf. “When we have the one about getting students to start Kindergarten, it’s really important to have.the preschool people and people who really know what’s going on there to be there and that’s the same people that know the college and career readiness goals, so we were able to break out into different groups and discuss specifically goals that the people who know what’s really going on in those areas could come up with. It was really good to have their feedback.”

Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8572.

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