Belle Plaine School

The Belle Plaine School District received a clean review of their financial handlings from Eide Bailly during their annual audit, which was presented at Monday night’s regular board meeting.

Among several highlights were a roughly $700,000 fund balance increase and a slight increase in cash and investments. The increase brought the district’s fund balance to just over $4 million, or an approximately  18 percent difference between the district’s assets and liabilities, roughly stated.

Aside from a minor mix-up with an I9 tax form with one district employee, Eide Bailly was unable to flag any other questionable financial activity.

Also among facts discussed was the district’s relatively stable enrollment numbers of just under 1600 for the last five years.

The full audit can be found online at https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicAgenda.

World’s Best Workforce

Each year, districts around the state are tasked by the Minnesota Department of Education to come up with goals that address educational areas flagged by the department to require special attention.

Broken into five areas, the initiative, known as World’s Best Workforce (WBWF), is driven by the state but its specifics are left up to schools. The goals of the program outlined by the state  include the following:

• All students are ready for Kindergarten.

• All students in third grade achieve grade-level literacy.

• Close the achievement gap between all groups.

• All students are career and college ready by graduation.

• All students graduate from high school.

With those overarching goals in mind, the Belle Plaine district set specific goals for each that are specific to the Belle Plaine student base.

In the first category, the district set the goal of having 65% of students reach the 40th percentile or above (nationally) based on benchmarks, as determined by FASTBridge Learning aMath and aReading Assessments by the end of Kindergarten at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

According to a presentation by Belle Plaine Belle Plaine High School Assistant Principal Margot Hansen, the district met the goal in math, with 78 percent of students meeting benchmarks, but fell just shy in reading, with 62 percent of students meeting benchmarks.

In the second area, the district set the goal of having third grade students in Belle Plaine scoring at least 10 percent higher than the state average on state standardized tests in reading.

At the third-grade level, 59.7 percent of Belle Plaine students were proficient on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in reading, whereas the state average was 55 percent of students.

In the third area, which drew the most discussion at Monday’s meeting, the district set the goal of reducing the achievement gap between students receiving free or reduced lunch and those who are not by three percent, measured by MCA/MTAS scores in reading and math.

The district met their goal in math, with 39.7 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch being proficient in 2019, or about 3.4 percent higher than last school year. In reading, 47.3 percent of those same students were proficient, marking a 2.6% improvement.

Superintendent Ryan Laager was hesitant to use the data and common discourse surrounding the achievement gap as guiding principles for the district to follow. He stated that it sends the wrong message to those students in the face of their potential future success.

“Someone is yet to prove to me that doing well on this test predicts future success,” Laager said.

The fourth goal the district set was to improve ACT scores to within no lower than .5 point from the state composite score average.

In 2018, Belle Plaine students scored an average of 20.5, versus the state average of 21.3, on the ACT + Writing. In 2019, Belle Plaine students scored an average of  21, versus the state average of 21.4.

The district has now set the goal of scoring at or above the state average for 2020.

Finally, the district set their final WBWF goal of maintaining a graduation rate of at least 8% above the state average. In 2018, since data surrounding graduation rates becomes available with a one-year lag, Belle Plaine’s graduation rate was 88.7 percent, or 5.5 percent above the state average. Graduation rates are difficult to pin down, as schools are accountable for students who enter high schools as freshmen, even if they transfer out of their respective districts.

With this in mind, Hansen noted that in order to increase graduation rates, the district hopes to make it a goal. aspx?ak=1000877&mk=50354541.

World’s best workforce

Each year, districts around the state are tasked by the Minnesota Department of Education to come up with goals that address educational areas flagged by the department to require special attention.

Broken into five areas, the initiative, known as World’s Best Workforce, is driven by the state but its specifics are left up to schools. The goals of the program outlined by the state are: All students are ready for Kindergarten; All students in third grade achieving grade-level literacy; close the achievement gap between all groups; All students graduate from high school; and All students career and college ready by graduation.

With those overarching goals in mind, the Belle Plaine district set specific goals for each that are specific to the Belle Plaine student base.

In the first category, the district set the goal of having 65% of students reaching the 40th percentile or above (nationally) based on benchmarks as determined by FASTBridge Learning aMath and aReading Assessments by the end of Kindergarten at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

According to a presentation by Belle Plaine Belle Plaine High School Assistant Principal Margot Hansen, the district met the goal in math, with 78 percent of students meeting benchmarks, but fell just shy in reading, with 62 percent of students meeting benchmarks.

In the second area, the district set the goal of having third grade students in Belle Plaine scoring at least 10 percent higher than the state average on state standardized tests in reading.

At the third-grade level, 59.7 percent of Belle Plaine students were proficient on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in reading, whereas the state average was 55 percent of students.

In the third area, which drew the most discussion at Monday’s meeting , the district set the goal of reducing the achievement gap between students receiving free or reduced lunch and those who are not by 3 percent, measured by MCA/MTAS scores in reading and math.

The district met their goal in math, with 39.7 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch being proficient in 2019, or about 3.4 percent higher than last school year.

In reading 47.3 percent of those same students were proficient, marking a 2.6% improvement.

Superintendent Ryan Laager was hesitant to use the data and common discourse surrounding the achievement gap guiding principles for the district to follow when interacting with students who are receiving free and reduced lunches given that he does not agree with the message speaking about the achievement gap in certain ways sends to those students in the face of their potential future success.

“Someone is yet to prove to me that doing well on this test predicts future success,” Laager said.

The fourth goal the district set was to improve ACT scores to within no lower than .5 points from the state composite score average.

In 2018, Belle Plaine students scored an average of 20.5, versus the state average of 21.3 on the ACT + Writing. In 2019, Belle Plaine students scored an average of  21, versus the state average of 21.4.

The district has now set the goal of score at or above the state average for 2020.

Finally, the district set their final WBWF goal of maintaining a graduation rate of at least 8% above the state average. In 2018 (data surrounding graduation rates becomes available with a one-year lag), Belle Plaine’s Graduation rate was 88.7 percent, 5.5 percent above the state average. Graduation rates are difficult to pin down, as schools are accountable for students who enter high schools as freshmen, even if they transfer out of their respective districts.

With this in mind, Hansen noted that in order to increase graduation rates, the district hopes to make it a goal.

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