School board sets academic goals

Published 7:47 pm Monday, September 10, 2012

The Albert Lea school board set its academic goals for the 2012-13 school year at its workshop Monday evening.

The goals include having 80 percent of students meet or exceed their growth benchmarks in standardized test scores, exceeding the state average in ACT scores and having a 90 percent graduation rate, among other goals.

The school board discussed and decided on the goals after hearing an evaluation of recent test scores from Superintendent Mike Funk and Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Williams.

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“We need something, we need a target, we need a goal,” Funk said. “Because we need to be better.”

Funk explained that he thought having a goal of 80 percent of all the students meeting their growth benchmarks is a good place to start. Board members discussed whether that number was too low or too high, but ultimately agreed that 80 percent was a good place to start. Funk explained that some tests didn’t stack up well compared to state averages, but also said that he looked at scores at districts of a similar size like Austin, Winona and others, and said Albert Lea is comparable or better.

“There’s no reason our students should not be above state average in any of this stuff,” Funk said.

The board also discussed graduation rate at length. Data show the percentage of students who start ninth-grade and how many graduate. Albert Lea School District is just above 80 percent, while the state is at 77 percent for the 2011-12 school year. A new goal is to have 90 percent of students graduate with their ninth-grade peers.


In other action the board:

• Heard from Funk some updates about how the schools were doing at the start of the school year. Funk said the district has 68 more students than it did last spring.

“Overall this is a positive trend,” Funk said.

He said someday the board may want to consider looking at neighborhood boundaries for the elementary schools, because Lakeview Elementary School is still at its max occupancy even after sixth-graders were moved to Southwest Middle School.

Funk also updated the board on how changes are going at Albert Lea High School. Its new principal, Jim Wagner, implemented some policy changes that include a stricter dress code and no use of cell phones in between classes. Funk said the code of conduct will be looked at in the district’s policy committee to see if it should be a district-wide policy.

Both the high school and middle school will now have locked doors during school hours. Guests will be let in by administrative staff, who can see who’s outside the door via camera systems.

Funk said class sizes are at the upper end of targets, but that none are too large. A full-time teacher was added at Halverson Elementary School to alleviate class sizes that were too large.

Scheduling problems occurred at the high school during its first week, including that 100 schedule changes needed to be made. Funk said he asked Wagner to implement a new plan where all schedules will be made in the spring, not the summer like in the past, so that scheduling issues for the next year can be worked out before the previous year has even ended.

Funk and Director of Finance and Operations Lori Volz also spoke to the board about the possibility of using a collections agency for parents who are not paying school lunch balances. Volz said the district would never contact families on the free and reduced lunch plans, but that some families who don’t qualify for that program are still holding unpaid balances. Board members asked if students still got to eat even with negative balances and Funk said that students are still served full meals.

“We don’t want to be hurting the kids,” Funk said.