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School officials study ‘testing’ issues

By Staff | Feb 13, 2009

Blue Earth Area School District officials are doing everything to make sure some students pass tests on two of the three ‘Rs’ — reading and ‘rithmetic (arithmetic).

High School Principal Jack Eustice reassured boardmembers Monday night district educators are focused on meeting standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

The past two years, BEA has failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress because of low reading scores in one area — special education.

“It isn’t that our students can’t read. Comprehension is up or down, depending on the student,” Eustice says.

To ensure AYP is made, $20,000 of Title 1 money was used to develop a 28-page improvement plan with the help of consultants.

Under federal law, a school district could lose funding for failing to attain AYP three straight years.

But, Superintendent Dale Brandsoy doesn’t see that happening. Rather, he says there likely would be more control on how federal funds are spent.

“They will designate how the money is to be used,” says Brandsoy. “That’s the punitive part of this. You take money away from students who are struggling with reading and math.”

Another test, the state’s MCA-II math test has local officials making plans if some juniors fail it.

In April, 99 juniors will have to score at or above proficiency to receive their diploma in 2010.

“We’re O.K. We know we can get our kids ready to pass that math test.” Eustice told the board.

This year’s seniors took the test and 36 percent met or exceeded the standard required. “That was the highest average in the conference and Big Nine conference,” Eustice says.

There’s hope the Legislature this year will ease the higher math standard, but the district isn’t waiting to see what happens. Local educators are taking some precautions.

Students will be able to take mock tests, participate in after-school learning activities and have seven opportunities for them to brush up on their math, says Eustice.

For those who fail, remedial plans are in place to help them prepare before retaking the test.

“We are going to approach this like nothing is going to happen. That the law will be what it is right now,” he says.

In other business:

• boardmembers received an update on enrollment. Since the start of school, the number of students has dropped from 1,206 to 1,192.

Winnebago Elementary School has shown the only increase, going from 92 to 93.

Blue Earth Elementary School went from 426 to 420; middle school, 291 to 284; and the high school, 397 to 395.

• March 16 was added as a school day to make up time lost because of too many snow days. So far this year, schools have been closed four times.

“If we need to look at more days, we’ll look at our April break,” says Brandsoy.

• the board approved the calendar for the 2009-10 school year.

School will begin on Sept. 8 and end June 4.

Brandsoy says the start day could change because the Legislature is considering a bill allowing school districts to begin classes before Labor Day.