Little Falls School District addresses barriers to student learning

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Little Falls Schools’ vision is to be the “District of Choice” by providing educational opportunities to meet the career needs of all students in a safe and comfortable environment.

Its mission is to prepare students for academic and community success by providing a broad range of quality educational and cocurricular opportunities in a safe, collaborative environment through fiscal integrity.

Part of meeting these goals is learning from the students’ test scores.

The Little Falls School District released its annual report on Curriculum, Instruction and Student Achievement this past week. While the report was due by Oct. 1, and needed to be voted on during Monday’s meeting, the 2013 numbers from the state have not been received. The Board approved the report before knowing the exact numbers from the Minnesota Department of Education. When the report is finalized, it will be placed on the district’s website.

Teachers, administrators and parents participated in a system-wide analysis during 2011-12. The analysis identified barriers to student improvement and consolidated them into three primary areas which were causing the most difficulty. They were:

• Insufficient and unclear communication from leadership;

• Insufficient understanding of research-based instructional strategies; and

• That core curriculum was insufficiently aligned to standards.

The plan looked at strengthening core instruction, not just intervention strategies, to assist students who are falling behind. They included:

• Summarizing instructions;

• Increasing the amount of time students are engaged in text;

• Setting clear objectives;

• Providing more effective and timely feedback; and

• Increasing parent engagement through better communication.

The District’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals were not met in 2012. The target for special education math was to have 50.33 percent of the students be proficient. Only 16.7 percent reached that goal. While the math target for the free and reduced group was to be 65.81 percent proficient, only 45.4 percent met the goal. Lastly, the target for special education reading students was 57.26 percent proficient and only 32.7 percent reached that goal.

Schools assess students in reading, math, attendance and graduation in specific grades. Since 2006, schools were given AYP status based on achievement results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests. In 2012, Minnesota changed to reporting with a Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) of individual schools.

Supt. Stephen Jones said, “The MCAs compared test scores from one grade with test scores of the same grade the following year. Test scores should follow a child through the grades, following his or her progress, which is what the MMRs do.”

In 2012, only Lindbergh Elementary and the Little Falls Community High School made AYP. Jones said that this year, there will be more schools from the district in that category.

Little Falls School Board briefs 

Other business conducted by the Little Falls School Board Monday night included:

• Certifying the maximum levy payable in 2014 at approximately 13.62 – 15 percent less than the 2013 amount. Business Manager Nancy Henderson said the final numbers won’t be known until after the referendum vote in November and after the truth in taxation meeting in December. Last year, the levy was $3.744 million, an 8.54 percent decrease form 2011. If the 2014 levy decreases by 15 percent, it will be finalized at approximately $3.182 million;

• Hearing that Channel 6 will no longer tape the Little Falls School Board as of Nov. 1, due to Jerry Abraham’s retirement. Supt. Stephen Jones said he hopes the district will have its own education channel by next year;

• Learning that the boiler that will heat the high school has arrived and should be fired up within two weeks;

• Hearing the construction students will be erecting the high tunnel which arrived this week;

• Moving the November School Board meeting to Tuesday, Nov. 12, since Monday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day;

• Voting to appoint 58 judges for the Tuesday, Nov. 5 elections;

• Voting to approve the Flexible Benefits Plan amendment which prohibits the use of pre-tax funds to purchase or reimburse the cost of individual insurance acquired from the Health Insurance Marketplace (Public Exchange); and

• Approving the extension of the contract with Strack’s Bus Service Inc., newly incorporated, and Palmer Bus Service of North Central Minnesota Inc. into the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. The language for the fuel charges also needs to be extended. For fuel costs between $2.25 and $3 per gallon, the district will pay for fuel. For fuel costs more than $3 per gallon, the district will split the cost with the bus companies.

The next School Board meeting will be held at the Morrison County Government Center Monday, Oct. 21, at 5 p.m.