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School district testing report looks at 2008-09 test results, other activities

WILLMAR -- Testing in fall and spring in the 2008-09 school year indicated that students in Willmar grew academically during the school year.

However, the district did not make enough progress to meet state and federal education requirements.

The two types of tests tell the district very different things, Danith Clausen told the Willmar School Board. Clausen is the district's director of curriculum and instruction.

Clausen presented the annual report on curriculum, instruction and student achievement during the board's Monday meeting. The report includes information about test scores and about efforts to improve math and reading instruction at all levels in the district.

Willmar, like many other school districts, uses Northwest Evaluation Association tests to gauge student growth from fall to spring. Teachers can use the data to see how well individual students understand concepts and to look at how an entire class is doing.

"They can show how they really did make good growth; it's a positive thing," she said.

"I'm happy to see this," said board member Wayne Lenzmeier. "As a parent, this is what I'd want to see about my child."

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, required under the federal No Child Left Behind education law, "tells us something as a system," Clausen said.

She said she will be discussing the district's MCA scores at the board's Sept. 28 workshop. The district did not meet state standards in its scores from last spring's tests and is classified as not making adequate yearly progress. Each year the state raises the score required to show adequate progress, and more school districts are classified as not making progress after each round of testing.

School districts and individual schools must develop plans for meeting the standards. Title I funding is used to pay for staff development, tutoring and other efforts.

Clausen reminded the board that testing is often discussed, but it is not the only focus. Students are involved in many activities, and some have an academic component to them.

She listed several of them:

- Senior High students read as part of an organized recreational reading program.

- Last year, Willmar Junior High students and parents met with an author after reading one of his books.

- The Junior High also celebrated Pi Day, including staff members singing songs about math.

- Kennedy Elementary students had two Destination Imagination teams place in state competition, and one of them earned a trip to the global competition in Knoxville, Tenn.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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