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Viewpoint: District still working to meet requirement

This is the first column of many that will be prepared as I begin working in a new capacity for the South Washington County Schools. It is appropriate in that regard that the information shared be about the achievement of students across the district.

The first and most important goal that our district focuses on is student achievement. Over the decades, various standards and programs have been implemented in our country, all with the same intention -- to ensure that students are prepared for their future. The current No Child Left Behind Act requires that 100 percent of our country's students be proficient in reading and math by the year 2014.

Our school district has been working diligently to increase the rigor of the curriculum through attention to the state's standards in order to meet the requirements through both the middle school transition study and high school redesign. As students are tested each year, we've challenged our administration, staff, students and families to be the best among comparable districts through our goal for student achievement.

The 2009 testing season has concluded and results have been released. Our student achievement goal measures indicate that in 2008-09, we ranked fifth out of the 13 metro school districts we compare ourselves to, in both reading and math.

Overall, the students enrolled in South Washington County Schools continue to perform quite well in relationship to expectations and grade level standards. Performance, at every grade level, continues to surpass state averages. In addition, the overall percent of students demonstrating proficiency on these exams is higher than the state average.

In spite of these great successes, are we there yet? As a district we are not making Adequate Yearly Progress for all students as required by No Child Left Behind. When considering the 38 possible student subgroups for our district, only two subgroups are not making Adequate Yearly Progress -- Hispanic American students and those students receiving free and reduced lunch, both in the area of math. Other groups have made improvements and are making adequate progress. These include black students who moved from not making Adequate Yearly Progress in math last year, to now meeting the standards, and also free and reduced lunch students in reading are now making Adequate Yearly Progress. In fact, all student subgroups made Adequate Yearly Progress in the area of reading. Detailed results are available on the Minnesota Department of Education Web site at:

As a district, we will continue to study and review our student achievement results. Across the district, improvement teams will determine strengths and challenges that will be addressed through professional development and curriculum review. Further, the district and school leadership will work to provide added support to the students who are struggling in the core areas of the curriculum. We designated a number of days in August for district and site improvement teams to meet and review the site and student data to determine the needs for improvement for the next academic year and beyond.

As you may be aware, on Aug. 10 the South Washington County School District was designated as a district in Stage 3 or corrective action due to not making Adequate Yearly Progress for three years. The efforts described here are in place and ongoing as we work to ensure all students achieve at every level across the district. We will continue to celebrate the successes and face the challenges as the district's transitions continue.

We encourage you to be involved in improving the quality of education within our school district. Talk with your child's teacher about how you can support your child's education or contact the district at (651) 458-6300 for more information. More information about the district's testing program is also available at

Mark Porter is superintendent of School District 833.