District’s staff creates strategic plans
By Katie Zerr
Members of the Mobridge-Pollock School Board heard Monday, Oct. 8 that administrators and staff in the district have created strategies to meet the goals and improve student achievement.
Based on the results of the Dakota Step tests, these strategies are constructed to target the specific areas in which the students performed below the expected assessment percentage. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Law was to have all students test in the advanced and proficient categories on the tests. Since that requirement is not attainable in the format of the law, South Dakota and a majority of the states have opted-out of the law and are creating their own model for achievement based education.
Mobridge-Pollock High School Principal Andrew Overland told the board one of the goals the staff set was to track graduates of MPHS to determine whether they continued their education, are part of the work force or made other choices. A committee was formed to collect the needed data for the project. The staff set a goal of 95 percent of this year’s graduating class will either be in the work force or involved in higher education.
Overland said the staff also set goals in the math reading areas where the 11th grade students were showing deficiencies according to the Step scores. The strategy was developed using the South Dakota standards and the Common Core standards to work as a team to strengthen these areas and to develop a measurable benchmark to show progress in these areas.
Mobridge-Pollock Middle School Principal Joe Lenz told the board his staff had pinpointed the testing areas in which the district students failed to reach the progress goals and subgroups that did not score well in the Step tests. He said the staff researched why the scores have been lower in these areas and what strategies will be used to improve the student’s achievements. He said the programs (Ames Webb) that were initiated in 2011-2012 have not had time to have the measurable impact taht is expected after three years. He said he expects to see more of an affect in the second year of the programs.
Lenz said the staff would work together across classes to improve the students reading comprehension and problem solving skills in math. He said staff would track the progress of individual students with targeted achievement measures. Instructions will be data-driven in order for teachers to create tests based on standards they are teaching.
On the elementary level more program are being implemented because of grant funding. Both elementary schools are expected to be focus schools in the new state model and Superintendent Tim Frederick told the board this would mean more mandated programs would need to be implemented.
More targeted teaching strategies will be implemented to the areas where lower scores have been recorded. These strategies will implement across the grades in the elementary schools.
The board discussed the upcoming election and the issues that will be on the ballot. One is Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposal for the Investing in Teaching Initiative, a collection of policy proposals contained in HB 1234. It is a many-layered measure to overhaul teacher evaluation and implement two alternative teacher compensation strategies. The bill was designed to improve teacher quality and student performance. The bill alters the way teachers and principals are evaluated, eliminates continuing contract and due process rights, and establishes both market-based and performance pay compensation policies. Two of the most controversial aspects of the bill provide a $3,500 incentive for all middle and high school math teachers and a $5,000 annual bonus that may only be awarded to a maximum of 20 percent of school staff, deemed the best teachers in the district.
“Teachers are concerned and the superintendents are about split down the middle on this one,” Frederick told the board. “It is feared that if it is voted down it will return in different forms of legislation.”
He said there were also concerns voiced about the loosening of rules dealing with capital outlay expenditures. He said the flexibility could cause a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” mentality in the districts.
“We would be robbing our future to pay for needs now,” he said. “But the smaller schools seem to have more capital outlay and they could use those funds to help them get by.”
He said if the one-cent sales tax (Initiated Measure 15) passes, the property tax burden would be spread out more evenly.
The measure would increase the state general sales and use tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent. The additional tax revenue will be split event between K-12 public education and Medicaid. The education funds will be provided to school districts based on enrollment, to be spent on improving education as school boards determine. The Medicaid funds will be spent only on payments to Medicaid providers and related state expenses.
Revenue from the tax would be distributed to the state’s public schools on a per-student basis. The tax would generate an estimated $85 to $90 million in additional revenue for the public schools. Schools will receive the revenue in addition to current education funding, including funding provided through the state aid to education formula.
“We need to get the facts out there about what this would mean to the Mobridge-Pollock District,” Frederick told the board. “There will be programs that we will be able to maintain and others that we can bring back.”
He reminded the board the district would lose the additional grant funding ($200,000) it has had for the past two years. That funding could be made up with the additional funds from the tax.
“We would be able to drop the opt out completely and we would be able to implement more programs,” he said, “if the per student funding at the state level stays the same.”
He said the next couple of weeks are crucial in getting information to the public on the measures that will impact education.
(Editor’s note: The Mobridge Tribune will be publishing the S.D. Attorney General’s explanation of all the ballot issues in the legals section Octo. 17 issue of the Tribune.)