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School Scores/Rankings Measure School Performance
School Scores/Rankings Measure School Performance 
Marvin Pirila, Northland Watch


May 21, 2018


In the May 4th issue of The Floodwood Forum, school principal/superintendent Rae Villebrun, provided excellent reasons why individuals cannot be measured by school tests and assessments alone.  The point that remains is that schools are the entities measured by the Minnesota Department of Education standards.  Their goal is to bring all students to their maximum potential in meeting these larger goals.


There is enormous potential inherent in each person that goes beyond the grade given from a test.  A test simply measures how well a person or class grasps the subject and is not a personal assessment.  When a person does poorly, they are showing they have not grasped the material.  When a class does poorly, the subject material may need to be taught in a different manner or simply covered again.  The purpose of tests is to demonstrate your knowledge and readiness to move to the next chapter, course, or grade. When a Secondary is falling below the state average dramatically, that speaks to their knowledge and level of reading, math, and science.  


The rankings available at posts data going back to the 2009-10 school year for the Floodwood School.  While their number of students has ranged from 167 in 2010-11 to 129 in 2017, they ranked anywhere from 341 (out of 489) in 2009-10 to 389 in 2017.  The average standard score ranged from 47.6 for 2011-12 to 20.4 in 2016-17, showing no point when they exceeded the state average of 50. 


Schools are in the business to serve their customer, the student.  When another school provides more value, some students will inevitably transfer.  The goal of every school is to prepare every student with the opportunity for higher education, regardless of his or her plans.  The school has succeeded when it achieves at least average scores and exceeded expectations by achieving higher test scores.  When everyone has performed to his or her full potential, the student and school succeeds together.


Underperforming schools cite new initiatives and programs to boost achievements each year, but often end up in nearly the same place.  Most diet plans don’t fail because of a bad program, but because the program wasn’t followed as directed.  The plan may have been good, but the execution was poor, and the results were poor.  A good program with the proper execution generally produces solid results.


Schools are in the business to educate and test scores are always going to be the measure by which success is determined.  If mediocrity is too readily accepted, it becomes the norm.  We were all students once and many of us dreamed of bigger and better things.  We knew school was important or later regretted our complacency when we needed those skills.  No one ever succeeded by underachieving or lackluster efforts.  Life is hard, and the greatest gift a student can receive is the self-discipline to give a 100% effort.  If you give your all, you can’t fail regardless of the final grade. Some tests aren’t going to go well, just like many things in life.  If everyone, the school, parent(s), and teacher do their part everyone wins.   Floodwood, like any other school, can be as good as it determines when everyone properly executes their portion of the plan.


No one should feel okay or satisfied with a subpar performance, particularly one that achieves far less than the average.  Do we want our students to go out into the world thinking that they must settle for mediocrity because of a substandard education?  How do you get a 95% graduation rate when your scores are less than half of the state average?  With a student/teacher ratio of 10.7, among the lowest in the state, how are students left behind?  Of course, there are varying reasons for lower grades, but they should have been addressed and corrected long ago.  Turning out lower quality catches up with every business, and it has here.


As Superintendent/Principal Villebrun stated in her introduction on the school website, “While the students’ scores determine how we do on MCAs, they are not so much a measurement of the students, but as a measurement of our school and how we are doing with our teaching. What this means is, we will look at our data and our teaching strategies to improve the instruction. If we are going to make a difference, the change needs to happen with our instruction, as this is what directly impacts the learning of the students.”   


Note:  MCAs are given as follows:  Reading: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 10); Mathematics: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 11); and Science: MCA or MTAS (grades 5, 8, and once in high school).


After eight straight years of less or far less than state average performances, it’s time to look at what successful schools are doing and follow through in a disciplined manner.  The basic expectation of education is to provide the student with sufficient knowledge to succeed in life and an average education is the minimal objective.   School performance, as well as its leadership, like it or not, is based on test scores.