News mixed for NU schools

NEW ULM — The New Ulm School District received mixed scores on the new North Star accountability system.

The new school rating system released listed New Ulm students with a lower than average score in math proficiency and reading proficiency, but the school is well above average in student graduation rates and attendance.

The North Star accountability system was established to meet the federal government’s mandate that Minnesota update its criteria to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

This new system has five indicators: first, how many students pass standardized math and reading tests; second, if student scores improved from one year to the next; third, if non-native English speakers improved language proficiency; and fourth, how many students are graduating on time and how many students regularly attend school.

On the math tests, New Ulm students scored 51 percent in proficiency, and the state average is 56 percent. In reading, New Ulm students scored 58 percent in proficiency which is just below the state average of 59 percent.

Superintendent Jeff Bertrang said in transitioning from the “No Child Left Behind” policy to “Every Child Succeeds,” the school was uncertain how the district would be measured. The math and reading proficiency scores were ultimately taken from Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) tests, similar to the previous scoring method.

Bertrang said the school was aware student math and reading scores were below average and the district will work to improve those scores.

New Ulm is among the top schools in terms of graduation rate. The state average is 82 percent, but New Ulm graduates 95 percent of its students on time. Only St. Clair had higher percentage in this region with a 100 percent graduation rate.

New Ulm also has higher than average rate of student attendance. The state average is 86 percent, but in New Ulm 93 percent of students attend school regularly.

Bertrang credits the graduation and attendance rate to creating a welcoming climate at New Ulm schools.

Bertrang said the school often must take a second look at the data to interpret what it means for New Ulm.

He explained that Minnesota schools are required to alert parents that their child can opt out of state testing. However, if a parent decides to opt the child out of the MCA tests, the score is counted as a fail.

“If we have 20 students opt out of a test, that counts as 20 fails,” Bertrang said.

This means the average presented to the state is not completely accurate. At this time, Bertrang is uncertain how many students opted out of the testing, but the school must take out the fail scores from those who opted out of the test to calculate the true proficiency percent.

“Every school has to deal with this,” he said.

The New Ulm school district is still adjusting to the new North Star rating system, but it is clear the MCA tests will remain a vital part of accountability practice.

Bertrang said the school will use MCA tests to gauge their goals in meeting school standards, but said locally the school strives to look at the complete child in terms of education. The score on one test is not as important as how much a student improves over time.

The compete North Star accountability measurements are posted at www.education.mn.gov and include data from 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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