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Testing Results Showing Improvement

February 15, 2018
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Members of the Emmetsburg Community School Board received some good news in terms of academic performance of students during the February board meeting Monday night, Feb. 12. Board members also reviewed the recently completed audit of the district's finances and gave their approval to the audit.

One of the highlights of the monthly Administrator's reports came from West Elementary, where Principal Joe Carter shared the most recent FAST testing results for the Winter period for grades Pre-Kindergarten through Fourth.

"We have just concluded our Winter FAST testing window," Carter noted. "The FAST Assessment is the universal screener that the Legislature requires we use for all of our students in PK through Fourth grades to measure their literacy."

According to Carter, the FAST assessment is conducted three times a year and part of the legislation that requires the use of this screener is a provision that a school must notify parents when students are 'persistently at risk' in literacy. "For a student to be considered persistently at risk, they would score below the benchmark score for two testing periods in a row."

However, after the completion of the most recent testing, West Elementary's Third and Fourth grade students achieved the highest scores in two years, with the Fourth Graders' scores being the highest ever achieved at West. Noting that the benchmark score for the Winter of 2017 was 73 percent, the Third Graders scored 75 percent, an improvement of four percent over their 71 percent score in the Fall. Fourth Graders at West scored 74 percent, an increase of seven percent over their Fall score of 67 percent.

"We did see some slight drops in our Kindergarten, First and Second graders, though," Carter admitted, "But 72 percent of our Second Graders are meeting the accuracy benchmark, with 88 percent of the Third Graders meeting the accuracy benchmark and 98 percent of the Fourth Graders meeting the accuracy benchmark. We made a systematic change in our phonics instruction three years ago, and this program is making a big difference for our students and our overall literacy program.

"Overall, these are really good numbers and we're really excited," Carter concluded.

At the Middle School, Fifth Graders showed 81 percent improved fluency, with Sixth graders showed 87 percent improved fluency, with 66 percent improvement in reading for Fifth Graders and 77 percent improvement in reading for Sixth Graders.

"We're starting to see our proficiencies rise, but it is a slow process," Middle School Principal Tracie Christensen told the board. "Our Eighth Graders are on a rotation becoming more familiar with the Library Lab. They have six weeks to explore the markerspace and see what they can create. They've created rubber-band cars and now are using Bloxels to create video games and characters. We want to thank the PATHS group for purchasing additional Bloxels for the Library Lab."

High School Principal Mike Embrock highlighted several accomplishments of high school students, including Division I and Division II placings for the Show Choirs and Large Group Speech students, as well as the accomplishments of the wrestler team in qualifying for the Regional Duals and four wrestlers qualifying for the State Tournament.

"Also, we will have our National Honor Society and Academic Awards Banquet on Monday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at The Shores," Embrock said. "We don't often get to honor our students for our academic achievements and this is a great event to honor our sophomores, juniors and seniors."

"Have you ever done any correlation between the Grade Point Average and ACT scores for our students?" asked Board Member Pete Hamilton.

"No, I haven't done that," Embrock replied. "I would say that as our grade point averages are rising, our ACT scores stay pretty constant."

"I know some schools do that to get away from grade inflation," Hamilton said. "I assume most of our students do take the ACT test?"

"Yes they do," Embrock answered.

In other business, Superintendent Amanda Schmidt reviewed the results of the annual district audit with the board members for Fiscal year 2017.

In her remarks, Schmidt noted that one of the annual goals is to have more revenue than expenditures in the district, and that goal was accomplished in Fiscal Year 2017.

"There were notations regarding some minor items that included a discrepancy of one student counted that was not enrolled in the district, which was corrected, and an instance where we exceeded our authorized depository amount by $1,000 for one day. We will raise our deposit authorizations in the future to account for that," Schmidt noted. "There was also a new requirement that the district must account for the liability of IPERS Funds, and a federal accounting requirement made our books show a negative fund balance in our nutrition fund, but we currently have a positive cash balance in that account."

Schmidt continued, "a requirement of the audit this year is for the auditor to identify any possible fraud or misappropriations and no instances were found in the district."

On a motion by Hamilton with a second from Board member Ed Meyer, the audit was given unanimous approval.

The board also accepted the resignations of High School Social Studies instructor Dan Dooley and High School Science instructor John Buck, both effective at the end of the current school year. Additionally, the board approved contracts to Kate Jackson as 7th grade girls track coach, pending completion of her coaching authorization classes. Also approved was a contract for Ben Thomsen as Freshman Baseball Coach and approvals of Kort Freeman and Katie Heddinger as volunteer golf coaches.

In a final item of business, the board set Wednesday, March 21, at 5:30 p.m. in the High School Library as the time and place for the Budget Hearing for the 2018-2019 school year.



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