Stillwater students making strong academic progress

August 29, 2019

The 2019 North Star Accountability results show that students in the Stillwater Area Public Schools continue to outperform students across the state on the Northstar Accountability Measures. Even more important, however, is that the latest results show Stillwater students are growing academically and making strong gains in Reading, Math and English Language (EL) Proficiency progress.

The progress indicators are particularly powerful numbers because they provide critical data as to whether students are maintaining or increasing their level of achievement. These indicators help schools and districts determine whether instructional strategies and interventions designed to help students grow in academic achievement are working. 

“I particularly like the addition of the Math, Reading and EL progress indicators,” said Melinda Fierro, the district’s assessment coordinator. “While proficiency rates do provide some information on how students are performing, they fall short because they do not consider the academic progress that both students who were and were not deemed proficient may have made over the course of a year of instruction and intervention.”

This is the second year of the state’s new accountability system, which meets the federal requirements set under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  North Star Accountability Indicators are designed to help school districts understand the larger picture of how students are growing and performing in several key areas from academics to attendance. The emphasis has shifted from purely academic proficiency measures to a more balanced system of growth and achievement as well as consistent attendance and graduation rates which together form a more complete story.  

The North Star system recognizes high performing schools and identifies schools and districts for support on a three year cycle. The first cycle was completed and announced in August of 2018. Schools and districts identified stay on the overall list for the entire three-year cycle regardless of performance in-between. New schools and districts can be identified for support in the intervening years. 

Notable results from 2019 for Stillwater schools include:  

  • The Stillwater Area High School’s four year graduation rate increased from 92.5% in 2017 to 95% in 2018, and the Special Education student group four year graduation rate increased from 67.2% in 2017 to 69.8% in 2018. (Note: Graduation rate data for 2019 will not be available until 2020). 
  • Both Brookview and Lake Elmo elementary schools saw strong increases in the English Language Proficiency Progress indicator area. On average, Brookview ELL students made it 76% of the way to their target, up from 65% the year before. At Lake Elmo,  ELL students on average made it 82% of the way to their target, up from 76% the year before.
  • Districtwide, 72% of students maintained or increased their reading achievement level at “partially meets” or higher, and 69% maintained or increased their math achievement level at “partially meets” or higher. Both of those progress scores were similar in 2018. 
  • In the areas of reading and math academic achievement, calculated from MCA proficiency scores, Stillwater students continue to perform above the state. Although not part of the accountability measures, Stillwater schools continue to perform above the state in science as well. 
  • No new schools were identified as needing support.

“While overall our students are performing well, we recognize the need to continue enhancing learning opportunities and ensuring we meet the needs of all 8,300 of our students,” said Superintendent Denise Pontrelli. “We remain committed in engaging students in their learning and breaking down barriers standing in their way. We know our students are more than a single test score and we’re focusing on the many factors - academic, social and emotional - that impact a child’s ability to learn.”

District and school administrators will work with teachers in the coming months to explore the 2019 data, as well as various other performance indicators. By analyzing the results, teachers will be able to better understand what is working well for students and in what areas they may need to enhance their instruction.

More information about student growth and achievement results will be shared as part of the district’s World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) report, which measures school readiness, third grade reading scores, college/career readiness, achievement gap data and graduation rates. The WBWF report will be available later this fall on the district’s website.