The pandemic’s impact on key student achievement indicators in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District remains largely unknown after the spring’s school closures disrupted the collection of student progress data.
The Minnesota Department of Education requires districts to file an annual academic progress report, which reflects data gathered through two key programs; World’s Best Work Force and Achievement & Integration.
The programs aim to increase student achievement and reduce academic disparities, but data collected for the combined report only focuses on a few indicators of student success — such as standardized testing and literacy skills.
Imina Oftedahl, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, delivered the annual progress reports to the Board of Education this month.
This fall’s incoming kindergarteners showed a “significant decline” in kindergarten readiness, Oftedahl said.
Kindergarten readiness is measured by the percentage of incoming kindergartners meeting or exceeding benchmarks on pre-reading skills.
This year, around 41% of incoming kindergartners met the fall benchmark. This demonstrated a 9% decline compared to last year’s data and fell short of district goals by 10%.
Oftedahl said the decline may reflect the pandemic’s detrimental impact on preschool attendance and programming.
Not all student groups were impacted equally by the decline when separated into racial and economic groups.
Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students, and students who qualify for free or reduced meal prices, each saw a 2% increase in kindergarten readiness compared to last year.
However, both groups fell short of the district’s progress goal.
Latino students experienced the sharpest decline in kindergarten readiness with only 13% of students meeting benchmarks this fall.
Last year, the district reported 18% of Latino students had met benchmarks with a goal to raise the percentage to 29% in 2020.
“Kindergartners in the Latinx group really did demonstrate a step backward,” Oftedahl said, adding targeted interventions are taking place this month to help address individual student needs.
The extra boost of daily instruction and practice on foundational skills is delivered by the district’s elementary learning specialists.
Reading proficiency All students achieving grade-level reading proficiency by third grade is another measured indicator of student achievement.
The district set a goal to raise the percentage of students achieving grade-level reading proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) from approximately 44% in 2019 to approximately 66% in spring 2020.
However, the district is unable to collect or report progress data because the tests were not administered in the spring due to the pandemic.
The percentage of third grade students demonstrating reading proficiency on the MCAs declined in the district between 2018 in 2019; the district aimed to raise the percentage from roughly 49% in 2018 to roughly 53% in 2019, but fell short with roughly 44% of students demonstrating grade-level reading proficiency on the spring 2019 testing.
Without 2020 testing, it’s unclear how students’ testing results compared to the district’s goals.
MCAs are not typically helpful in assessing individual student needs, Oftedahl said last year, but rather help in planning student instruction, support and enrichment.
The pandemic’s impact also left the district with missing pieces of data used to track academic disparities.
Without the administration of several annual tests, the district was unable to report data on four achievement indicators — oral reading fluency in elementary students, reading MCA scores and ACT scores.
The MCA data is broken down to show academic outcome disparities, also known as the “achievement gap”.
This year, the district set a goal to close the “gap” between white and non-white students from roughly 27% in 2019 to roughly 19%.
Another goal was set to close the “gap” between students eligible for free and reduced meal prices and ineligible students from roughly 31% to roughly 23%.
A glimpse into how the pandemic impacted the class of 2020 is expected early next year when the 2019-20 graduation rate data is published.
However, the data currently available for 2019-20 showed an “optimistic rise” in the district’s graduation rates, Oftedahl said.
Approximately 87% of Burnsville High School seniors graduated last school year after four years in high school.
“It is just so wonderful after several years on the board to see this kind of growth in our graduate rates across the board,” Board Chairwoman Abigail Alt said during the Dec. 10 meeting.
The graduation rate reflected an increase from roughly 85% in 2018-19, but fell short of the district’s 90% goal.
The percentage of Black or African American students graduating in four years increased in 2019 to 83%, and the Latino student group also increased to 71%.
Sixty percent of American Indian students graduated in four years, which fell short of the district’s 72% goal, but reflected a small student group of five students.
Graduation rates trended upward in 2019 for almost all student groups, but students receiving English language services experienced a dip to 58%.
“This group continues to be a group for intervention and support and really looking at the resources we are providing in high school to support them academically,” Oftedahl said.
At the Burnsville Alternative High School, the graduation rate remains steady with about half of students graduating in four years. However, more than 85% of BAHS students ultimately graduate with additional learning years.