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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

More up and down in standardized test scores

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/23/19

ELY – High school student test scores in Ely rose slightly in math, reading, and science, according to results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, while scores in the middle …

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More up and down in standardized test scores

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ELY – High school student test scores in Ely rose slightly in math, reading, and science, according to results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, while scores in the middle school declined across the board. Elementary students showed improvements in reading scores.
Megan Anderson, Ely’s grades 6-12 principal, reported the results of the statewide exam to Ely school board members Monday night.
“As to why and how we have the scores that we do, is hard with just a small number of kids,” Anderson said. “When you have just 32 students taking the test, each student represents three percent of our overall score. In a larger school, you could have each student representing a percentage of just one point. It is hard to navigate where the true growths were.”
With the varying number of students tested from year to year, an accurate measure may not be attainable, said school board chair Ray Marsnik. As reported by the Star Tribune, math scores across the state continue to decline. “Last year, just 55 percent of students statewide met the MCA standards, and this is a slide of six percentage points in just one decade,” he said.
He noted that new state Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker is looking to teachers for answers to improve the test scores “This is a statewide problem, I want to emphasize that,” Marsnik said.
He noted that Minnesota typically ranks first nationwide in American College Test (ACT) scores. “We were number one again last year in this college readiness measure,” Marsnik said. “Nationwide, the number of students who reach benchmarks in math and English has been dropping over the last several years, and math [ACT] scores have hit the lowest level in 20 years.”
Marsnik added, “This is just my opinion, but a lot of the problems started when we took the education decisions out of the hands of educators and put them in the hands of politicians. I look at these MCA scores, and to me they don’t mean much. There is a lot more to a student’s progression in education than just this one test.”
Teacher contract
School board member Rochelle Sjoberg reported on the ongoing contract renewal negotiations with the Ely Education Association. She told her fellow board members that she has emphasized the district’s budget reserves, the district’s direction, “and the fact that we have this large (building) project coming into light.”
Sjoberg added, “I’m not entirely pleased with how far (negotiations) have gone this year or how well they have moved. I think there appears to be a little bit of expectation at some levels that our large account balance needs to be spent solely on wages and benefits. I want to relay that it has been a little difficult. I would like to be a little further along than we are.”
Sjoberg emphasized her respect for the school staff, but added: “I think our wages and benefits are very good packages.”
Board member Heidi Mann offered her own thoughts.
“There was a lot given the last time around. There are a lot of other things that are needed as well. We have to have money for facilities, like [gym ceiling] plaster and whatever might come up.”
Sjoberg noted, “I for one can’t see spending our account balances down to zero.”
Marsnik said the goal of the district is to be viable and financially sound. “Having money in the bank makes us financially sound,” he said.
Other business
In other action, the board:
Approved the senior class trip to Washington, D.C., for March 26-30, 2020.
Adopted a resolution establishing combined polling places for school district elections not held on the day of a statewide election.
Approved the hiring of Megan Devine as assistant cross country coach for the 2019-2020 school year at a full stipend of $1,980.
Approved the renewal of positions for the 2019 fall musical including James Lah, director, Sarah Mason, musical director, Molly Olson, choreography, Ruth Lah, costumer, Bonnie Starkman, accompanist, and Peter Kess, set tech.
Hired Robert Castellano as a substitute teacher.
Accepted the resignation of Kristi Johnson from the paraprofessional position effective Oct. 16, 2019.
Accepted a quote of $4,353 from Gartner Temperature Controls for boiler maintenance.
Changed the regular November 2019 board meeting to Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m., due to the Veterans Day holiday.
Agreed to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Krekelberg Home School for boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track, and baseball for the 2019-2020 season.
Approved a request to hang a banner in the ice arena recognizing the Pee Wee youth hockey team that advanced to the state tournament last season.
Approved the 2019-2020 Q-Comp budget on a 5-1 vote with James Pointer voting no.
Approved the new district superintendent job description.

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