June 26, 2013

School fails AYP

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When it comes to getting passing grades in the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) as part of the Leave No Child Behind Act, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 didn’t do very well. But then again, neither did the majority of other school districts in North Dakota.
That was the bad news that Steve Holen, district superintendent, shared with the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 School Board during its regular meeting last Tuesday.
According to Holen, the elementary school did not meet AYP for the first time, while the high school failed to reach the standards for the third year. As a result, the district, as a whole, failed to meet the standards.
“The elementary school failed to reach AYP standards in the reading areas for the subgroups of composite reading, economically-disadvantaged reading and white subgroup reading,” stated Holen. “The high school failed to meet AYP in all 10 categories.”
While Holen wasn’t pleased with the AYP results, he noted that it is a problem statewide. In the last assessment, only 189 schools in the state made AYP, while 267 schools failed to meet the standards.
“The fundamental problem with AYP is that the same students aren’t being followed,” stated Holen. “Because the testing only follows a class, we aren’t comparing apples to apples.”
The rapid growth in student numbers, according to Holen, is also attributing to the district’s problems in meeting AYP.
“We’re seeing so many students with so many backgrounds enrolling in our district,” stated Holen. “It’s hard to get them up to speed with our district. But we can do it better and we are trying to meet the needs of the kids.”
As a result of its failure to meet AYP standards, the district will remain in the school improvement process for the 2013-14 school year, which will require the district to formalize an improvement plan.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also got its first look at a new $11.15 million review budget for the 2013-14 school year.
“The biggest change that we are seeing in the new budget is an increase in state funds but also a big increase in salaries,” stated Holen.
During the 2012-13 school year, the district had revenues of $9.7 million and spent $6.8 million in salaries. During the upcoming school year, the district is expecting to receive $11.15 million in revenues and will spend $7.5 million in salaries.
“We fared better with the new state funding formula,” stated Holen. “The formula, which provides $8,900 per student favors growing districts.”
But according to Holen, the district will be receiving less funds from the oil production tax.
“We’re going to get less oil production tax revenue,” stated Holen. “But we can live with that because we can now spend that money wherever we choose. In the past, the money was restricted.”
Holen also noted that because of increasing enrollment, the district has also been hiring additional teachers, which is driving up the salaries line item of the budget.
“Five years ago, the district had 45 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in our professional staff,” stated Holen. “This year, we will have 66½ FTEs.”
During their regular meeting, the board also approved spending $70,000 to reseal the high school track.
“We were surprised to learn that the track was supposed to have been sealed after it was installed,” stated Holen. “We had seen some deterioration. But we weren’t informed that the track had to be sealed.”
While resealing the track will not put the track back into its original state, according to Holen, it will extend the track’s life by seven to eight years.
“If we don’t seal the track, there will be enough damage that we will have to replace it,” stated Holen. “It’s money we had to spend.”