Hawthorne, Southwest principals give updates on progress at their schools

Published 4:48 am Tuesday, November 8, 2022

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Principals at Hawthorne Elementary School and Southwest Middle School  presented updates to Albert Lea school board members about their schools during their State of the School presentations Monday night.

According to John Mahal, principal at Hawthorne Elementary School, over 18% of the 429 students at Hawthorne last year were Hispanic or Latino, while over 14% were Asian. By comparison, just over 56% were white. Over 62% qualified for free or reduced-priced lunches, 21% were in special education and 17% were English learners. 

During the last school year, attendance was at 92%. By comparison, 94% of students attended in the 2019-20 school year.

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In terms of proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests, over 37% of students met the reading and math achievement scores. By comparison, the district’s scores were 34% in reading and 30% in math. The percentage of students in the state that met or exceeded standards was over 48% in reading and just under 42% in math.

“What we really have been focusing on as a building, especially the last couple years, is what’s our overall progress and what’s our student growth,” Mahal said.

Over 35% of students improved in reading, 30% stayed the same and 35% of student scores decreased or didn’t meet expectations.

“We did a really nice job as a building, generally speaking, maintaining or growing within our reading,” he said.   

Over 20% of students improved on their math scores, while 30% stayed the same. Almost 50% of student scores decreased or didn’t meet expectations.

Over 39% of students met math standards in 2022, an increase of 10% from the previous year but still slightly below the 43% of 2019. Over 39% of students met or exceeded reading standards in 2022, but the number was still below the 44% in 2019.

In terms of science, over 41% of Hawthorne students met or exceeded standards, which saw a near 15% increase from 2021. But that number was also down from 48% in 2019. 

“We’re trending the right direction in terms of where we want to go with it for our students,” he said.

Seventy-nine percent of students placed in Tier 1 — or low risk — last fall, and that number improved to 81% in the winter and 83% in the spring. This year, 78% of students placed at low risk.

Mahal highlighted student growth in all grade levels in five out of the six MCA tests, something he attributed to unit planning and cycle work. He was also proud of the fact the building had 100% participation in instructional rounds.

“Despite the pandemic, we really believe that we continue to grow as a building, as professionals and in supporting our students with their needs,” he said.

Last year there were just under 500 students at Southwest Middle School, according to Principal Tyler Johnson.

Over 60% of students were white, over 22% were Hispanic or Latino and over 10% were Asian. Just under 10% were English language learners, almost 17% were in some form of special education and almost half qualified for free or reduced-priced meals.

In terms of attendance this year, over 8% of students were absent in August, over 5% in September and over 9% in October.  

Board member Jill Marin asked why absences jumped in October.

“In Southwest, generally it’s a full day where maybe the parent or guardian didn’t call in for whatever reason, so they are marked as unexcused. We very rarely see a student skipping classes, for example.”

Almost 27% of students who took the math MCA met or exceeded the standard, while just over 41% of students who took the reading MCA met or exceeded the standard. Those percentages are up from last year, when 19% met the math standard and 38% met the reading standard. By comparison, in 2019 over 36% met or exceeded the math standard and over 52% of those who took the reading standard met or exceeded the standard. Eighty-seven percent of the student body took the MCAs last year.

Johnson highlighted the work on the gym floor and said it was technically finished.

“Now we’re just waiting for it to dry right now,” he said. “The plan is by next Monday to start having PE classes back in there.”

In terms of growth, Johnson said he was looking to get more students involved in activities. He also wanted to hire a social worker and possibly add a school resource officer. He would also like to keep a counselor and resource specialist.

Following their presentations, Gayle Brownlow, a gifted and talented coordinator for the district, and Mary Jo Dorman, executive director of teaching and learning, gave the board an update on The World’s Best Workforce statute, which came into legislation in 2013. The goal is to ensure Minnesota school districts enhance student achievement through teaching and learning supports. There are five performance measures: to make sure all children are ready for school, to have all third graders read at grade level, to close achievement gaps within student groups, to have all students ready for a career or college, and to have all students graduate from high school.

In terms of goal one, last fall 42% of students were considered on track based on FASTbridge early reading composite scores. Their target for this year was 50%, but in reality 41% of students were considered on track. Their target for next year is 46%.

Almost 36% of students in third grade read at grade level in the 2020-21 school year. Their target for last school year was just over 48%, but only 42% of students read at grade level. Their goal next year is to have over 47% of third graders reading at grade level.

In terms of goal four, 33% of students who took the ACT had a composite score of 23 or higher. Their goal is to have 40% of students score a composite score of 23 or higher this year.

And in terms of goal five, almost 81% of students graduated from Albert Lea High School in 2020. Their goal for last year was to improve that number to 85%, but in reality just under 72% of the student body graduated. Almost 75% of white students graduated, just under 60% of Hispanic/Latino students graduated, over 64% of English language learners graduated, over 61% of students who qualified for free or reduced-priced meals graduated and just over half of special education students graduated in four years. The only student demographic who saw an increase in graduation rates were Asians, who saw a 10% increase in graduation rates (80% in 2020 and 90% in 2021).

The board also approved a three-year master contract for executive director of careers, technology and innovation. The position will be filled by Jeff Halverson, currently the assistant principal at the high school.