World’s Best Work Force coming

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer
The Elk River Area School Board approved a report Dec. 12 from a program that aims to prepare students for careers and college and to improve performance in the classroom.
The World’s Best Workforce, a result of a 2013 bill passed by the state Legislature, is a strategic plan that ensures every school district in Minnesota is making strides to improve student performance.
The plan addresses the following goals:
•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.
•All students graduate from high school.
The program states that for Minnesota to be competitive, it must have students who are college and career ready – a facet that’s important because of the state’s aging population; it’s projected that 70 percent of jobs will require more than a high school diploma by 2018 and that Minnesota has one of the worst black-white achievement gaps in the country, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.
Each district was tasked with creating its own plan to align curriculum and instruction so that students are properly prepared for life after high school. The program’s success is measured by MCA scores, high school graduation rates, career and college readiness and closing the gap by student group, according to the department.
Jana Hennen-Burr, assistant superintendent of educational services in the district, reported the progress of the Elk River Area School District to the School Board Dec. 12.
One of the program’s goals for the 2015-16 year was that the school district would increase the number of students meeting fall benchmarks on the FASTBridge reading and math tests – both academic assessment exams — to 80 percent by 2016. The district result was that the percentage of students meeting the fall benchmarks on those assessments was 63 percent in reading and 70 percent in math.
Another district goal for the 2015-16 year was that District 728 would increase the proficiency on the third-grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment exam to 72 percent in 2016. The percentage of students meeting proficiency on that exam was 68 percent during that school year, just short of the district’s goal.
To lessen racial and economic achievement gaps between students, the district set a goal to decrease the proficiency gap of students of color meeting standards on the math and reading MCA exam to 11 percent in 2015-16. The end result from that school year was that the achievement gap of students of color was 13 percent.
To address the goal that all students are ready for career and college, ISD 728 aimed to increase the percentage of students meeting at least one of the ACT readiness benchmarks to 87.5 percent in 2015. The end result was that 78 percent of students met at least one college benchmark on the exam during the 2015-16 academic year.
And finally, in regard to graduation rates, the district aimed for a 92 percent graduation rate in 2015. The final graduation rate for that year was 89.5 percent, according to the report. The state average graduation rate was 81.9 percent in 2015.
School Board Director Gregg Peppin said one area he’s concerned about in regards to World’s Best Workforce is the lack of emphasis on vocational schools.
Hennen-Burr said based on feedback from students, many said they’d like to take an assessment test to learn what their interests and strengths are and which fields would pair well with them. The assessment would gives students the needed tools to dabble in different interest areas, she said.
The program has already outlined goals for the 2016-17 school year. Administrators and members of the School Board have spent many meetings this year going over World’s Best Work Force materials to wordsmith the efforts specifically for ISD 728.
Among the goals for the coming year are an increase in participation for the district’s early childhood programming by 5 percent by the start of the school year and increasing MCA proficiency on the third-grade reading test from 68 to 72 percent in 2017.
To view the report on World’s Best Workforce in ISD 728, visit isd728.org/Page/3016.