Owatonna Public Schools

Martina Wagner, Anne Mikkalson, Michelle Krell and Kenneth Griswold (not pictured) presented the World’s Best Workforce prior to the school board meeting Monday evening. Though students saw a turbulent school year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group is reporting the district is on track to achieving their academic goals. (Emily Kahnke/southernminn.com)

Despite the issues many students and families have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Owatonna schools are on their way to meeting the goals that have been set for the 2022 school year.

Michelle Krell, director of teaching and learning at Owatonna Public Schools, and three of her colleagues presented the World’s Best Workforce annual report Monday evening to the Owatonna School Board.

World’s Best Workforce was a bill passed in 2013 to make certain that each school district in Minnesota is progressing in student performance by focusing on five goals. These goals are to make sure all children are ready for school, all third grade students can read at grade level, all racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed, all students are ready for career and/or college upon graduation, and all students graduate from high school.

Krell said the district as a whole is working to align those five goals with the four parts of the district’s strategic direction, which are high quality teaching and learning, safe and caring community, equity, and 21st century learning.

“We started as a district to look at our strategic roadmap and identify what it is that we need to make sure we produce for our students,” Krell said. “With that, there was a desired daily experience that was identified through survey data.”

Through this survey, they were able to identify desires and experiences by students, staff and families. The district then looked to see if and how they aligned with the work done within the schools.

Kenneth Griswold, data and assessment coordinator for the Owatonna Public Schools, said during the presentation that one of the concerns they’ve had in thinking about World’s Best Workforce while evaluating progress over the last two years has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are making a good faith effort to consider a wider range of information sources as we set goals, as we evaluate our progress and as we think about what good education looks like,” Griswold said.

This comes from having an assessment system from multiple sources of information, not simply state testing scores to navigate into a future with more effective learning.

The five goals

For the first goal of school readiness for children, the district saw a composite result that 51% of kindergarten students met the benchmarks in the FASTBRIDGE early reading assessment. The goal for the fall of 2022 is to increase that percentage to 60%. The action steps the district plans to take to achieve this goal include adding literacy resources such as shared reading, which uses big books so the students can see how reading works and how letters come together. Social emotional readiness will be a focus that is ongoing to get kids ready to learn, and to have family and community outreach by connecting with early learning networks.

For the 2020-2021 school year, 47% of grade three students showed they were proficient in the state reading assessment, the goal for the next school year is to increase that percentage to 60% by supporting individual students in their needs.

The district also plans to decrease the gap difference in reading and math proficiency for all economic and racial/ethnic student groups by 3% by June of 2022. MCA testing did not occur in 2020, but despite the issues faced throughout the pandemic, percentages differed slightly throughout student groups from 2019 and 2021.

In 2021, the percentage of graduate students who earned a credit in AP, CIS, articulated, concurrent enrollment, PSEO courses or earning a bilingual seal was 84.5%. The percentage of students grades 9-12 who earned credit in advanced career and technical courses, or participated in internships or mentorships, was 48.2%. Both percentages were down from 2020. Martina Wagner, English language development coordinator for the district, said this was somewhat to be expected given the challenges faced during distance and hybrid learning throughout the pandemic. The goal for each of these sections is to increase by 3% for the 2022 school year.

The final goal of having all students graduate high school is to increase graduation rates from 84% to 88% with no racial/ethnic group dipping below 80% by 2022. The district hopes this will be accomplished through increasing academic support and student engagement and by utilizing programs and pathways to lead students to graduation.

Reach reporter Emily Kahnke at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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