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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — On the annual review of school district performance for student achievement in 2017-2018, also known as the state report card, the Colfax school district has exceeded expectations.
“This is good news,” said William C. Yingst Jr., school district administrator, during the Colfax Board of Education’s November meeting.
“We have made significant gains, and this is something to be proud of,” he said.
The overall school district score for 2017-2018 was 74.2, or “exceeds expectations,” compared to an overall score of 65.3 in 2016-2017 (meets expectations) and compared to an overall score of 65.4 in 2015-2016 (meets expectations).
In addition to the overall score for the school district exceeding expectations, Colfax High School and Colfax Middle School also showed significant gains.
In 2017-2018, Colfax High School had an overall score of 72.2, compared to a score of 63 in the 2016-2017 school year, and compared to an overall score of 65 in 2015-2016.
The overall score for Colfax Elementary in 2017-2018 was 81.8, compared to an overall score of 68.1 in 2016-2017 and compared to an overall score of 64.9 in 2015-2016.
The elementary school score of 81.8, representing an increase of 13.7 points over the previous year, is “the highlight of the highlight,” Yingst said.
“We have hit RTI (Response to Intervention) hard … (and are) working with students who need to make gains,” he said.
The school district has invested several hundred thousand dollars of referendum money approved by school district voters in 2016 for new curriculum that aligns better with state standards, Yingst said.
The teachers, students and administrators have worked hard to facilitate the implementation of the new curriculum, he said.
The school district also has worked with CESA 10 on curriculum mapping to align with state standards and to review test scores, Yingst said.
The test scores are weighted in four areas, and all school districts are different in terms of socio-economic status, demographics, poverty rates and ethnicity, which determines how the scores are weighted, he said.
For Colfax, the poverty rate results in a weighted score of 30 percent, Yingst noted.
“It’s a boost for the school district, and a boost for staff,” he said.
“It’s exciting for us, and it shows the hard work pays off. I am very proud of our staff,” Yingst said.
Ken Bjork, school board member, said he also wanted to credit the Colfax Public Library for encouraging year-round learning and for helping to keep students reading during the summer.
“It all helps,” he said.
RTI starts in elementary and then “works its way up through the system” to help the scores increase as students work their way through school, said Polly Rudi, director of special education and the district’s curriculum coordinator.
Student growth over a period of time, from year to year, results in continuous improvement, said Trevor Hovde, principal at Colfax Elementary.
Maintaining scores is more challenging when the scores are higher; when the scores start out lower, “there is lots of room for growth,” Hovde noted.
“It is impacting our kids in a positive way,” he said.
The Colfax school district’s emphasis on attendance also is helping, because students cannot learn if they are not in school, Hovde said.
School districts receive “more credit” on the achievement scores when the growth is in an area that has more poverty, Yingst said.
“I have no reason to think we won’t continue to grow,” he said.
Rudi noted that scores among school districts cannot be compared because the measurement is based on the differences in a particular school district and on the growth in achievement.
All school districts are unique, and the scores of Colfax, Elk Mound, Boyceville and Glenwood City cannot be compared with each other, Yingst said.
“I am proud of what the staff has done. We have moved the needly significantly,” he said.
Bjork wondered if poverty was measured “yes” or “no” — the school district is either in poverty or not in poverty — of if there are degrees of poverty.
Poverty rates are measured in percentages. Colfax has a poverty rate of 44.6 percent, and the poverty rate is unique to each school district, Yingst said.
Buying the new curriculum “is huge,” Rudi said, and expressed her appreciation for the Board of Education.
“It’s exciting when hard work pays off,” said Todd Kragness, president of the Board of Education.
Scores often will decrease the first year a new curriculum is used, so it is especially noteworthy that the achievement scores increased for Colfax after the first year of using a new curriculum, Rudi said.
“It’s a pleasant surprise,” Hovde said.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that flooring installed in the elementary school as part of the referendum projects, and which has already been replaced once because of faulty materials, will have to replaced again next summer. The problem is a manufacturer’s defect, Yingst said. The flooring will be replaced at no cost to the school district, and the manufacturer will send a moving company to help move furniture out of school rooms so the school district’s custodial staff does not have to do it yet again, he said. “It’s been a little bit of a nightmare,” Yingst said.
• Learned more door locks and more cameras had been installed as part of the Department of Justice’s school safety grant. Colfax, like all school districts in the state receiving grants, is waiting on installers, Yingst said.
• Learned that Yingst had participated in a disaster drill coordinated by Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, the first week of November. The initial “disaster” had been a tornado and then a train had derailed, resulting in a toxic spill, followed by a semi tanker that had tipped over. “We kept planning and adjusting. It was a good practical exercise,” Yingst said, adding that he had made good connections with village staff and nursing home staff. The exercise started at 6 p.m. and was finished by 10 p.m.
• Received notification of the school board election on April 2, 2019. School board members Todd Kragness and Andrew De Moe will be up for election next spring.
• Approved hiring Courtney Doucette as the girls’ basketball C-team coach.