School is on 'Targeted Support' list because it receives Title funds and two student sub-groups scored below proficiency targets.

    With students at Washington School too young for state academic achievement assessments, and Crookston High School students on a current trend of mostly scoring below state average on various standardized assessments, Highland Elementary School, home to second through sixth graders, is seen as sort of the crown jewel of the three local public schools, at least when it comes to how its students perform on state tests.

    Highland students are still doing well and the overall academic achievement news at the school is more positive than negative, School Principal Chris Trostad tells the Times, even though the school was included last week on a list of almost 500 schools throughout Minnesota that will receive some sort of outside assistance because of certain data emerging from the most recent statewide comprehensive assessments.

    “Highland has a couple of subgroups that fell below the targeted index. Out of the multiple combinations of the three categories, with eight in each category, I was very proud of the few areas we fell below,” Trostad explained. “We’re above in all the other categories and it will be inevitable that a school will hit some category with the many, many areas (the Minnesota Department of Education) identifies. Highland will work hard to correct the couple categories we fell below and I am confident we can get those above, and we barely missed the target index numbers given.”

    The federal No Child Left Behind law is gone, replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Last year was a transition year for ESSA, but now its parameters are fully in effect. The primary difference between NCLB and ESSA is the latter allows individual states to create achievement and proficiency criteria that make the most sense for a given state’s situation. As part of ESSA in Minnesota, schools with scores that deem it necessary they receive additional support are placed in one of four categories, from the most intense intervention targeted to schools on the “Priority Support” list. The intensity ramps down on the remaining three lists, from “Comprehensive Support” to “Targeted Support” and, finally, “Enhanced Core Support.”

    Highland School, along with 398 other schools, is on the “Targeted Support” list, meaning it will, according to the MDE, “receive targeted professional development and will develop an improvement plan for the areas identified as being below the target index.”

    Highland was placed on the list because it receives federal Title funding and two subgroups scored below the proficiency target.

High achievement
    The rest of the testing data released last week is largely positive for Highland, Trostad notes. Students at the school have scored above the state average in math for four straight years, he said, and this past year students at Highland for the first time scored above the state average in reading. In science, Highland students scored 1.6 percent below the state average, the closest students at the school have ever been to the state average, Trostad said. Science scores at the school rose 8.4 percent from the previous tests.

    Trostad also notes that at Highland, Native American students, special education students, English Language Learner students, students eligible for free and/or reduced meals, and students considered homeless outpaced state average proficiency rates in reading, math and science in the latest round of testing. In some cases, those student subgroups scored much higher than the state average, but Trostad notes that students in those subgroups often show much lower average proficiency rates at significantly larger school districts, i.e. metro area, and that tends to drive down the state average.