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Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools students outperformed the state average on standardized reading and math tests, according to the district’s most recent data, but their scores also continued a three-year decline.

This year, 69% of students district-wide met or exceeded state standards in the math Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, down from 73% in 2018 and 77% in 2017. Reading achievement similarly declined, coming in at 66% this year, down from 70% in 2018 and 72% in 2017.

Students in grades 3-8, 10 and 11 take the assessment every March.

Khrisslyn Goodman, district director of assessment, evaluation and district improvement, told the School Board late last month that student achievement declined across several groups and demographics.

For the last four years, there has been a consistent gap of about 15 percentage points between the students of color and white students in math tests. That’s coupled with a gap in graduation rates.

Prior Lake High School’s 2018 overall graduation rate was 96.7%, placing it in the top 3%of high schools in the state. But the graduation rates of black students, students receiving free and reduced lunch and special education students was around 87%; the rates for their white and Asian peers was around 98%.

The student population is about 80% white. About 3% of students are classified as English learners, 12% are in special education programs and 12% are receiving free and reduced lunches.

This year’s reading scores place Prior Lake-Savage in the middle of five districts with similar size and demographics: Stillwater, Eastern Carver, Centennial, Lakeville and Minnetonka. Math scores this year place the district in last place among the group.

Several board members said they weren’t happy with the declining scores. Melissa Enger questioned whether the district’s initiatives around improving student performance — like focusing on relationship building and equity training — were working.

“Maybe it’s not cutting it with the state standards,” Enger said. “Clearly we’ve got some areas for improvement. We’re not seeing that deep mastery that you cited.”

Goodman in an interview said the district is working on moving from bring “data-rich to information-rich.” Each school has been provided the results of their assessment reports and has created a group of administrators and staff members to create action plans specific to their students, she said.

Goodman is also working with all of the principals to create data-backed solutions to any problems their staff identify — whether they’re based on a specific student group or across the entire population.

Superintendent Teri Staloch said while the scores were not as impressive as she would have liked, she’s confident the work the district staff was doing could help turn things around.

“These outcomes aren’t what anybody in this room wants right now,” Staloch said during the board’s Sept. 23 work session. “But I think the best practices that we’re doing, the work that we’re doing, are aligned to other districts that are outperforming us.

“We’ll continue to stay the course and keep monitoring that data,” Staloch added.

There was one bright point within this year’s score report: testing performance among students at La ola del lago, the district’s Spanish immersion program, have increased substantially.

In 2018, 38% of tested third-graders achieved or exceeded state standards in reading. This year, that same class has 67% of students meeting standards. The new class of third-graders hit 65% of students with meeting or exceeding scores. There was a similar change in math scores.

“I’m very happy with what I see and with those numbers,” Board Vice-Chairwoman Stacey Ruelle said. “That’s pretty incredible, that change.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described some of Boardmember Melissa Enger's statements. She questioned whether initiatives such as equity training were working. 

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