by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Many of the goals Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) set for the 2019-2020 school year in an accountability plan were not met amid the pandemic. Information about those goals and the goals proposed for the 2020-2021 academic year will be presented at a public hearing this Thursday. Community members may submit comments about both sets of goals during the public hearing.
Minnesota school boards must adopt a World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) plan and goals connected with it each year under state law to enhance learning and teaching. The plans are required to focus on five goals: children being ready for school, third-grade students reading at grade level, racial and economic achievement gaps among students being closed, students being prepared for college and careers and students graduating from high school.
The 2019-2020 goals were not approved until May 2020, just one month before that academic year ended. Following years of failing to meet academic goals under WBWF, for last year’s plan, the district went back to the drawing board, ultimately approving less rigorous academic goals with the hope that WAPS would be able to meet them.
The pandemic impacted the district’s ability to meet its goal regarding third-grade students reading at grade level, WAPS Director of Learning and Teaching Karla Winter said at the CAC’s November 16 meeting. WAPS aimed to increase the percentage of students reading at grade level in third grade from 48 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2020, as measured by the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) reading assessment in place of the state’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) tests. As a result of the pandemic, third graders did not take the assessment in the spring. Rather, fourth graders took the assessment this fall, and 56 percent were reading at grade level.
WAPS did not meet the goals it set associated with reducing the achievement gap among students of color and white students. The district aimed to increase the percentage of students of color taking advanced placement, honors, and college-level classes at the high school, as well as the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals and white students in such classes. In previous years, WAPS set specific goals for improving minority students’ test scores. The district never met those goals and eliminated them last year.
This year, WAPS did not meet its goal for the percentage of students of color in advanced high school classes to increase from 35.4 percent in 2018-2019 to 40 percent in 2019-2020. The percentage decreased, with 29.45 percent of students of color taking such classes in 2019-2020.
The district also did not meet its goal for the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price meals in advanced high school classes to increase from 31.7 percent in 2018-2019 to 35 percent in 2019-2020. The percentage decreased to 27.4 percent in 2019-2020.
WAPS did not meets its goal for the percentage of white students in advanced high school classes to increase from 50.3 percent in 2018-2019 to 55 percent in 2019-2020. The percentage increased to 51.7 percent in 2019-2020.
The pandemic also impacted the district’s ability to meet its goal regarding students being ready for college or a career, Winter said.
WAPS set a goal to increase the percentage of ninth-grade students who finished Minnesota Career Inventory System (MCIS) career and college pathway assignments from 0 percent in 2019 to 100 percent in 2020. Ultimately, 85 percent of students completed the work in 2019-2020.
The district is not yet able to determine whether it met its goal regarding the percentage of students graduating from high school, Winter said. Data about graduation rates in 2020 will not be available from the state until March 2021. WAPS aimed for the percentage of students who graduate from Winona Senior High School (WSHS) to increase from 87 percent in 2019 to 90 percent in 2020 and for the percentage of students who graduate from the Winona Area Learning Center (ALC) to increase from 18 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2020.
Over the past three years, graduation rates have declined at WSHS and in the district overall. In 2017, 95.3 percent of WSHS students graduated. That number went down to 91.9 percent in 2018 and 87.1 percent in 2019. Districtwide, 83.2 percent of students graduated in 2017, 79.2 percent graduated in 2018 and 74.9 percent graduated in 2019. At the ALC, the percentage of students who graduated decreased from 28.8 percent in 2017 to 13.2 in 2018, then increased to 18 percent in 2019.
WAPS met its goal to increase the percentage of children who receive early childhood screening from 78 percent in 2018-2019 to 80 percent in 2019-2020. Screening rose from 78 percent to 84 percent.
The district did not meet its goal to provide more opportunities to assist families with children moving from preschool to kindergarten. Due to the pandemic, it was not possible to invite families into schools for events related to the transition from preschool to kindergarten, for instance, Winter said.
Various stakeholders from throughout the district had input on the 2020-2021 goals, Winter shared. These stakeholders included representatives from the district’s early childhood programming, teachers, administrators and the CAC. The CAC ultimately voted at its November 16 meeting to forward the goals to the School Board, with the exception of one goal that has yet to be finalized.
WAPS proposes that the percentage of third-grade students reading at grade level will increase from 52 percent in fall 2020 to 61 percent in spring 2021, based on the FAST reading assessment.
A goal associated with closing racial and economic achievement gaps is still being finalized, Winter said.
The district aspires in a proposed goal to increase the percentage of ninth graders who complete MCIS work from 85 percent in 2020 to 100 percent in 2021.
The district also aims in a proposed goal for the percentage of students who graduate from high school districtwide to increase from 74.9 percent in 2019 to 80 percent in 2020.
The World’s Best Workforce public hearing will take place on Thursday, November 19, at 6 p.m. It may be viewed at https://winonak12mnus.finalsite.com/district/school-board/live-stream. Public comments may be submitted on the night of the meeting between 6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. at https://forms.gle/o4z4v6MeUYFL8n9d6.
Despite multiple requests from the Winona Post, WAPS still had not released its new World Best Workforce Plan to the public just days before seeking public input on the plan. The district recently switched to distance learning at all grade levels.
The public hearing will be followed by a regular meeting of the WAPS Board at 7 p.m.