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Duluth school district's plan has 'aggressive' goals ahead

The Duluth school district has a new improvement plan for all of its schools with some "aggressive" goals for raising student achievement, reducing bullying and lowering class sizes.

Duluth school district
(2008 file / News Tribune)

The Duluth school district has a new improvement plan for all of its schools with some "aggressive" goals for raising student achievement, reducing bullying and lowering class sizes.

Superintendent Bill Gronseth showed the plan to the Duluth School Board at its education committee meeting Tuesday.

It's the result of the hundreds of surveys taken and the more than 30 community meetings held this winter, which were part of the district's "Think Kids" effort. That was meant to gauge the educational priorities of community members, staff and students as the district looks toward placing an operating levy question on the general election ballot this fall.

"This isn't going to be a document that goes up on the shelf and sits," Gronseth said of the plan, which will focus on districtwide efforts during the next four years. "If you adopt this it will be brought up in every meeting."

Gronseth asked the board to tie the plan to his yearly performance evaluation.

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The three key areas of focus are high achievement, a safe and welcoming school environment and efficient systems that make the best use of resources. Within those areas, Gronseth shared data on where the district currently sits and where it plans to be by 2016-17.

For example:

  • Nineteen percent of black students and 32 percent of district students who eat free or reduced-price lunch are proficient in math. The goal is to have those numbers up to 60 percent and 66 percent respectively in four years.
  • The American Indian graduation rate is 39 percent. The goal is to raise that to 71 percent in four years. "These are aggressive goals, but we are pretty confident we can do it," Gronseth said.

  • The staff survey showed that 61 percent believe bullying is a problem. The goal is to reduce that to 10 percent or less in four years.
  • Some student groups receive out-of-school suspension at a disproportionate rate to their population. Forty-five percent of the district enrollment receives free or reduced-price lunch but 98 percent of the students who received out-of-school suspension in 2012-13 were of that group. A little more than 8 percent of the district student enrollment is black, but that group accounted for 40 percent of the 1440 out-of-school suspensions this past school year. The goal is to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions by 40 percent or more and to make the use of suspensions more consistent with student demographics. The district -- and Denfeld High School in particular -- has already started studying alternatives to suspending out of school and finding ways to change behavior so students don't fall behind. It also plans to work with teachers to become more culturally competent involving behavior.

  • An average class size by grade in the elementary level and by subject in the secondary level of schools will be developed, and the goal is to reduce that average size by 10 percent in all grades. Board member Ann Wasson said the plan is "intricate."

    "Everyone in the district will eat and breathe it," she said. "It shows there is change."

    To learn more

    The entire plan can be found on the district's website .

  • Related Topics: EDUCATIONSCHOOL BOARD
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