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High marks for Osakis students

Randy Bergquist

The Osakis School District received overall high marks on a new Minnesota Department of Education "report card" on all public schools that was released Thursday, Aug. 30.

The report card is part of the new North Star accountability system for measuring and evaluating school performance and it is a departure from older systems that focused solely on standardized test results.This new system was designed to satisfy the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law enacted in December 2015. ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind.

Randy Bergquist, superintendent of Osakis Public Schools, noted that Osakis has traditionally done well on state tests and was pleased with the results under the newest system.

"We are above the state average, which is awesome," Bergquist said. "As a school district, we have excellent teachers who have bought into our plan for looking at data, including test scores, aligning curriculum with academic standards, focusing, energizing and motivating students to do the best they can on these assessments."

The new North Star system looks at a broader set of related factors to evaluate overall school performance. Those factors are:

• Reading and math achievement on test scores, which reveal how many students are performing at or above grade-level.

• Progress and growth in reading and math over time, which measures whether students' achievement levels on academic tests are maintained or improving.

• Progress toward English language proficiency, which is a category specifically for non-English speaking students who are working toward proficiency in English.

• Four-year and seven-year graduation rates, which measures whether students are graduating within four years or if they need extra support and time to complete their diploma.

• Consistent attendance, which measures whether students are attending school regularly.

The North Star system takes these five assessment categories and uses them to evaluate and determine whether a school is going to need increased support from the state if they are struggling. If a school is performing well, these factors are used to determine if they should be recognized for excellent performance.

When compared with the Minnesota state averages, the Osakis School District exceeded state averages in all categories:

• Reading achievement — Osakis 64.3, state 59.2. (Broken down by grade level, Osakis secondary grades scored 61.7 and Osakis elementary grades scored 66.4.)

• Math achievement — Osakis 69.6, state 56.2. (Broken down by grade level, Osakis secondary grades scored 63.5 and Osakis elementary grades scored 74.4.)

• Consistent attendance — Osakis 95.3, state 85.6.

• Four-year graduation rates — Osakis 97.0. state 82.7.

Osakis teachers and staff work together with the students in setting goals and instilling a sense of pride to help them do the best they can, Bergquist said.

"The students are representing not only their individual scores, grade level scores, but also their teachers, school and community," he said. "I feel Osakis students are great and they want people to know they work hard, give it their best, and have pride in their school and community."

Osakis fares well in attendance and graduation because the district's principals, secretaries and counselors work with parents to ensure students are coming to school and taking the necessary classes to graduate on time, Bergquist said.

New system has benefits, says superintendent

Bergquist, a former teacher, principal, district assessment coordinator and now superintendent, said he's glad to see the new system is finally recognizing student progress and growth over time, rather than just relying on a snapshot of a student on one or two test days.

"I have always thought to base how well a school district is doing based on how well students do on one or two particular test days in April/May was foolish," he said. "What happens if a student comes to school without eating breakfast? What happens if a student comes to school without parent support at home? What happens if a student is sick, got into a fight with their sibling, friend, and/or parent? What happens if a student is just plain having a bad day? Are these type of students going to care about a test when other concerns are on their mind?"

Osakis Review Reporter Phillip Drown contributed to this story.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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