The Shakopee School Board reviewed results this week of several goals set annually by the school district. The goals are in compliance with World’s Best Workforce, a state statute which requires school districts to address disparities as part of a replacement to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Every district in Minnesota must aim toward five categories set by the state: that all children are ready for school, all third-graders can read at grade level, all racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed, all students are ready for career and college and all students graduate from high school. Each district’s specific goals under these categories look different, depending on district demographics and resources available.
None of the five goals set in Shakopee during the 2017-18 school year — which Assessment & Testing Supervisor Ford Rolfsrud admitted were lofty — were achieved in the 2018-2019 school year. The goals were set with input from the district advisory council, which includes community members, parents, teachers and students in Shakopee.
Shakopee aimed to ensure 68% of its kindergarten students met three out of four of the state’s kindergarten readiness measures. Those measures include counting, number identification, letter identification and letter sound identification.
In the 2018-2019 school year, results show 64% of kindergartners met three out of four of the readiness guidelines, falling four percentage points behind the district’s goal.
Of the 515 kindergartners in Shakopee, 79% met counting standards, 62% met number identification standards, 80% met letter identification and 49% met letter sound identification.
“We try to set goals that are realistic but also challenging,” Rolfsrud said.
The district’s goal was for the third-graders in Shakopee to read at a grade level that was 8% higher than the state’s overall third grade reading proficiency rate for the 2018-2019 school year. However, the study showed Shakopee third-graders fell short of that goal, as they are reading at a level that’s 4.8% higher than the state’s overall proficiency rate. For the 2017-2018 school year, the district’s scores were 6.5% higher than the state’s.
Third grade reading proficiency rates are based on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores.
“Each year it’s a different group,” Rolfsrud said. “We are proud of the fact that we do compare favorably to the state just because our demographics in Shakopee are very similar to the state, so any time we do better than the state we feel we’re doing a really great job.”
Rolfsrud also added that the district “always wants to do better, and having any decrease is not what we want.” Rolfsrud said ultimately, the district would like to operate at a level that’s 10% above state scores.
Racial and economic achievement gaps
Shakopee Pubic Schools measures achievement gaps by comparing the achievement levels of students who receive free and reduced lunch, receive special education or are non-white to their counter groups: students who do not receive free and reduced lunch, do not receive special education or are white. The gap is represented by the percent-difference in achievement between the vulnerable group and its counter group.
The school district’s goal, measured by MCA reading test score results, was to lessen the achievement gap from 28.7%in 2017 to 25% in 2019.
The results showed the achievement gap stayed stagnant — something Rolfsrud said doesn’t surprise him, but still shows the district’s need to implement strategies to improve the gap.
“That goal may have been a lofty one,” Rolfsrud said. “But it’s one I feel is so important… just the idea of having the same equitable opportunity for success. And I do want it to be a lofty goal.”
Rolfsrud said the district’s equity team and instructional coaches are working on closing the achievement gap. The district is also working with an equity assessment team that will provide a comprehensive report detailing the areas the district can improve upon.
Another goal was for the percentage of Shakopee students who meet all four career and college readiness benchmarks outlined by the ACT test to increase from 31% in 2018 to 33% in 2019. But Shakopee’s high school students fell short of that goal, as 28% of students showed career and college readiness in 2019.
The district wanted all high school seniors to show a four-year graduation rate of 90% in 2017-2018 — which would have been up six percentage points from 2014. But the 2018 four-year graduation rate was the same as the 2014 graduating cohort, at 83.4%.
Rolfsrud told the school board this measure isn’t an accurate model to represent Shakopee graduation rates, however, since most students at Tokata Learning Center, an alternative high school in Shakopee, are behind in credits and graduate in seven years instead of four.
The 2019 graduating cohort numbers show that Shakopee High School had a four-year graduation rate of 90.4%, while the Tokata Learning Center’s seven-year graduation rate was far less, at 71.9%. Tokata’s graduation rates are down from 84.7% in 2017, while the high school’s graduation rates are up from 86.9% in 2017.
Rolfsrud said all the goals set were achievable, but challenging.
“Anytime you don’t meet a goal it’s going to be disappointing, but I’m more excited about the dedication of our teachers, and I’m focused on how we can take the results of this year and try to improve them for next year,” he said.
Earlier this fall, the district received the Minnesota North Star results, which showed Shakopee students’ math and reading achievement rates were higher than Minnesota’s overall public school marks, but the district’s rates dropped since 2018.
More results related to Shakopee Public Schools’ achievement and opportunity gaps will become available in February, when Equity Alliance Minnesota, an organization performing an equity assessment for the district, submits a comprehensive report.