Achievement gap narrows in District 88

NEW ULM – New Ulm public schools are largely on track to meet a statewide goal of closing achievement gaps among student subgroups by 50 percent by 2017, shows just released Minnesota Department of Education data.

District 88 exceeded all proficiency targets set for it in reading. More specifically, Hispanic students exceeded targets set for them by 10.92 points, white students by 0.29 points, students with limited English proficiency by 26.67 points, students on special education by 2.5 points, and students receiving free or reduced lunches by 12.78 points.

The district exceeded three out of five specified goals in math and fell slightly short of meeting two. More specifically, Hispanic students exceeded targets set for them in math by 8.23 points, students with limited English proficiency by 21.54 points, and students receiving free or reduced lunches by 5.8 points. White students fell 1.5 points short of proficiency targets set for them, and students receiving special education fell 2.2 points short. In practical terms these numbers mean that the district would meet the targets if 15 more white students and five more special education students met the goals set for them.

The proficiency targets are different for each subgroup and vary in the range of 40 to 80 percent proficient.

“We were aware in the fall that we had an achievement gap with our special education population and some math scores at our elementary level,” said Superintendent Jeff Bertrang. “Based on that data, the schools worked on staff development, curriculum review and instructional strategies that were put in place to help these groups move in a positive direction. The teachers are working with a new math curriculum this year, and we are incorporating new strategies to positively affect student growth in the elementary grades.”

The data have been provided to all districts and charter schools in Minnesota, and offer school officials a concrete measure of how close to on-track they are in closing the gaps between students of color and white students within the timeline, according to a Minnesota Department of Education press release.

“For the first time, we have concrete goals around gaps, and are letting our school leaders know exactly how far they need to go to be fully on track to close these gaps,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius in the MDE press release. “When you look at the numbers, you begin to realize not only how far we’ve come, but that our goal of reducing these disparities is actually within our reach and very doable.”

The data are part of Minnesota’s new accountability system, developed as part of its No Child Left Behind Flexibility waiver, which measures how students in every subgroup – white, black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, special education, low-income and English language learners – are performing academically while also setting yearly goals for increasing student achievement that will ensure all gaps for each school are closed by 50 percent by 2017, explains the press release. Minnesota is one of the waiver states, if not the only one, providing this kind of data to school districts.

Forty-three percent of districts have met their 2013 targets in reading for every single subgroup. In math, nearly 40 percent of districts met their 2013 targets for every subgroup. In addition, 32 percent were meeting their reading targets for all but one subgroup, while 26 percent of districts were meeting their 2013 targets in math for all but one subgroup.

Each year, in order to meet the 2017 goal, districts will have new targets they must meet for each subgroup to ensure all gaps will be closed by half. Later this month, MDE will release 2013 graduation rates.

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