Schools looking for community input and support

On Nov. 15, the state will release results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Those are the state tests in math, reading, and writing, used to determine whether schools are meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (N...

On Nov. 15, the state will release results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

Those are the state tests in math, reading, and writing, used to determine whether schools are meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The test results receive a lot of attention because they determine if a school will be labeled as "making adequate yearly progress" or "not making adequate yearly progress."

Educators know one test can't tell you if a student is truly making adequate progress or if a school is doing a good job. There are many factors that weigh in. In Duluth we use many tests, standards and activities to monitor how well our students are progressing. In general, we do well.

However, it's important for citizens to understand what No Child Left Behind measures and what it means to schools and school districts.

NCLB establishes a percentage of students that must attain a specified score on a test, then raises that percentage each year until 2014, when 100 percent of all students will be expected to pass the test. This percentage applies not only to the student body as a whole, but to subgroups within that body such as special education students, non-English speaking and low-income students, Asian, Hispanic, African American and American Indian students. The Act also requires that at least 95 percent of all students and 95 percent of students in each subgroup participate in the test.


In other words, as few as two or three students who don't meet standards, or who don't take the test can determine whether or not a school is labeled as "not making adequate yearly progress," regardless of how many hundreds of students attend that school and do well. The first year, this designation carries no consequence beyond being on this list.

Then real consequences kick in:

  • Year 2 - The school must offer its parents the opportunity to send their children to another school within the district at the district's expense and work with the state to create a new improvement plan. The district must use a portion of Title I funds from other schools to support the school that needs improvement.
  • Year 3 - The school must pay for supplemental services like outside tutoring
  • Year 4 - Corrective action will by taken by the state. The Minnesota Department of Education has yet to develop the specifics of this stage.
  • Year 5 - State takes over the school to restructure. Details of this stage are pending as well.

Only schools that receive federal Title I funds are subject to these consequences. We have five elementary schools that receive such funds; Stowe, Laura MacArthur, Lincoln Park, Nettleton and Grant. Lincoln Park and Morgan Park Middle Schools also receive Title I funds. None of our high schools receive Title I funding.
As the bar continues to rise, we'll continue to implement the most challenging curriculums and utilize the best instructional practices to help our students meet these standards. And while it will become harder to stay off the list, I do believe we can take our students to higher levels of learning if we work together to take our schools from good to great. I do know that schools won't be able to do it alone -- we'll need help and support from parents, students, and the community at large.

Information coming for the Long Range Facilities Project

Information resulting from months of in-depth assessment and research will be shared with the community beginning in November, in preparation for the development of a long range facilities plan for the Duluth School District.

We want people to have the data before we begin to discuss what a plan should look like. We'll start talking about possibilities, current standards, best practices, and what other districts are doing after the first of the year, when people have had time to look over the information and digest it.

The reports will include a demographic study of Duluth, assessments of the "bricks and mortar," and assessments of how well buildings meet current educational needs and standards.

Information will be shared in the media, on the district Web site at , included in district newsletters, and shared through meetings. Open community meetings will be held; a citizens group assisting with the project will go out and make presentations to existing community groups as well. Here's when you can expect to see the data:


  • Demographic Report: Nov. 28
  • Building Assessment Report: Dec. 5
  • Educational Adequacy Report: Dec. 12

It's an exciting time, and I hope everyone will look for opportunities to take part in this important process.
Keith Dixon is the superintendent of the Duluth Public Schools. He may be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 336-8752.

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