RC students rebounding in math; reading a concern

While it appears Rush City students are making a rebound in math, recent state test scores indicate more of a concern in reading.

Superintendent Vern Koepp discussed this finding while revealing the results of this year’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) at  the Aug. 16 school board meeting. He also presented a summary on where students and the district are with making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

AYP is a measurement defined by the federal No Child law that determines how schools and districts are performing academically according to results on standardized tests.

Through the MCA test, the AYP report says Rush City is making adequate progress in math for all subgroups tested, but improvement is needed in reading for the “White, not of Hispanic Origin” subgroup in the elementary school, high school and as a district, Koepp explained.

In addition, with a more rigorous math test resulting in lower scores statewide in 2011, math scores have bounced back in every grade for Rush City and in all grades except 11th for the state.

The new math standards introduce students to algebraic concepts early in the elementary grades, while all students are expected to pass an Algebra I course by the end of eighth grade. This is intended to prepare high school students for advanced algebra, geometry and calculus, Koepp explained.

As many Rush City parents know, they and teachers previously helped develop an improvement plan that reduced the gap between Rush City and state MCA math scores and exceeded state averages in two grades.

Based on this year’s AYP report, Koepp noted, Rush City exceeded the math target for all students by seven index points as a district, 11 points at Jacobson Elementary and by three at the high school. “We are pleased with the progress in math,” he said, “but we will continue our efforts to improve math achievement.”

The MCA math test is given to all students in grades 3-8 and 11.

Reading scores

As for reading, which has become a concern based on 2011 and 2012 MCA scores, Rush City developed an improvement plan last year, and scores improved in four of seven grades compared to the previous year.

Based on AYP reports, Rush City decreased the number of subgroups needing improvement from seven in 2011 to three in 2012. This while they exceeded the reading target for all students by one index point as a district and by five points at Jacobson Elementary.

At the high school, all students scored right at the reading target.

“We are pleased with the progress in reading, but we need to focus our resources and energy on continued improvement,” Koepp said.

The MCA reading test is given to all students in grades 3-8 and 10.

MAP results

Another test, Measures of Academic Progress, is administered fall and spring, so the district can determine reading and math growth for individual students and groups of students.

The reading tests are given to all students in grades 2-9; the math tests are given to all students in grades 2-10.

Nationwide, 50 percent of students meet their growth target and 50 percent do not. In Rush City, the school board’s academic goal is tougher — that is, at least 60 percent of the students will meet their MAP growth target for reading and math.

MAP test data shows that eight of nine grades tested for math exceeded the national average and six of nine grades met the more rigorous school board goal. Five grades had 75-85 percent of the students meeting their math growth target.

For reading, seven of eight grades that tested exceeded the national average and three of eight grades met the school board goal.

“It is important to use multiple measures to assess student achievement and to look at trends in individual and group achievement over several years,” Koepp urged.

Elementary report

Elementary principal Melody Tenhoff said the summer school program “went very well,” as an increase in student attendance (about 74) warranted more staff. She commended Mary Kurvers, Linda Lindeman, Laura Nelson, Kelly Gunderson, Jen Theilen, Meghan Preissig, Dawn Johnson and Julie Thom for “working hard to meet the needs of these students.”

The other summer program at the elementary school, Tiger Club, also went well. In fact, noted Tenhoff, “we have had better and more stable attendance for the second year in a row.”

Otherwise, teachers are back in their classrooms, preparing for the upcoming school year. And there is optimism that enrollment should be anywhere from five to 10 students above last year’s mark, Tenhoff said.

High school report

New high school principal Brent Stavig noted he can’t say enough about the Rush City community, as he’s been meeting as many people as possible.

“They have been welcoming, supportive, and I’m already feeling at home,” he said. “I believe these relationships will be instrumental in meeting the needs of the community and students and staff. I am very impressed with Rush City.”

Stavig said summer league volleyball concluded with an exciting tournament at Pine City High School. The JV team won its tournament, while the varsity fought hard against Braham but came up short to the Bombers in the final match.

With practice starting for fall sports, turnout has been good for girls volleyball, and there is excitement over football and cross country teams, as well, he said.

In preparation for 2012-13, continued Stavig, teachers are working on implementing advanced technology into their curriculum and instruction. Many have participated in iPad, Smart Board and other trainings.

In other news, the board:

• Agreed on adding another preschool section of up to 12 students based on demand from several parents of 3-year-old children.

• Heard a presentation on the Rush City Education Foundation from its  president, Scott Friday. The foundation promotes educational excellence, accepts donations in memory or honor of individuals, raises funds, distributes grant money for educational activities and more.

• Approved the following personnel actions at Rush City schools: employment of Joe Lattimore as sixth grade teacher and a family leave request for Jeanette Aleshire.

• Approved the following St. Croix River Education District (SCRED) personnel actions: employment of Sue Witthuhn as physical therapist; individual contract with Unique Learner Manager Nicole Jack; increased days for accounting technician Joyce Johnson; and family leave requests for Sarah Rydberg and Kerry Bollman.

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