Chatfield's school board heard updates on the district's state Multiple Measures Rating (MMR) during its October meeting, held Monday, Oct. 21. The MMR is a new state progress measurement standard determined through the data collected from districts' students taking Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests each year.

Elementary Principal Craig Ihrke reported, "The MMR results are not good at the elementary. The scores from last spring's MCA testing are quite low, and it's a bitter pill to take because we did a lot of work on reading. At the beginning of last year, we had 16.8 percent of our students reading at emergency levels, 40 percent at risk and 43.2 percent proficient or better. As a direct result, we started the Action 100 reading program, and we cut our emergency percentage in half and brought 65 percent up to being considered proficient or better."

Ihrke's report came after Chatfield High School Principal Randy Paulson shared that the high school students had done well on their MCAs and that the secondary school's MMR percentage had "slipped a little from 81 percent to 76.44 percent," but that he speculated that maintaining a higher percentage in coming years would be "harder and harder" due to increased and higher testing standards.

Ihrke pointed out that the elementary students' NWEA testing scores have "consistently risen" - as have students' math scores - so he is frustrated that in spite of investments in the students' education and teachers' educating skills, the state does not see the progress students make, except on tests.

"We're not achieving results, but it's certainly not because of a lack of effort on the part of the teachers," he added. "It's apparent that I need to provide them with what they need to get there."

Superintendent Ed Harris responded to Ihrke's statements, saying that while Ihrke takes responsibility for the gap in instruction, the district was going to form an intervention team for each building's staff to use in case students are not achieving to their potential.

"We have a group formed that met and is working on a building plan of interventions for this year and over the course of time," Harris said. "We'd like to build a district vision of what student achievement targets look like, and even though the elementary's results are disappointing, we probably were going to form these teams anyway, diagnosing data."

Harris also said he had contacted the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC) because he believes that when one is being challenged, one gets all the resources together ahead of time and has them ready.

Board chairman Jerry Chase acknowledged Ihrke's frustration, pledging the board's support in finding solutions to the quandary at hand. Harris cited that an advisory committee will be formed to deal with identifying targets and support mechanisms for achievement through the district for the new initiative called "World's Best Workforce," an achievement program that has just been rolled out, toward which districts will aspire to satisfy its standards.

Community education

Community education news included preschool achievement and kindergarten readiness, as well as changes at Chatfield's Valleyland school age childcare center.

Director LuAnn Klevan said, "Community Education is up and running again, and Valleyland has 185 kids. That's lower than expected, but plenty for the space we have. There are some older kids who have transitioned out - fifth and sixth graders who will be staying at home on their own - so we're comfortable with the number we have."

She added that Sue Tangen has become a full-time staff person at Valleyland and the other staff members are really happy about having her.

Klevan also reported that preschool enrollment is similar to last year and the school has made some adjustments to accommodate access for students that might need some assistance in regards to affording tuition.

"We're also working on closing the gap in reading for students who need reading intervention," Klevan concluded. "There's a preschool literacy night in November, during which Elissa Johnsrud will be working with parents to help them with learning how to use Action 100."

Other news

In other news, the board handled the following issues.

• Damien Nichelson was hired as a seventh grade boys' basketball coach and Mitch Lee was hired as spelling bee advisor. Hiring requests for a new custodian and a community education preschool assistant were also approved.

• The board accepted the resignations of paraprofessionals Mary Broen and Donna Oellrich and terminated the probationary employment of Jonathan Walston.

• The board approved a leave of absence for high school art instructor Kelly Puent for the 2014-2015 school year.

The next meeting of the Chatfield School Board of Directors is set for Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Chatfield High School media center. The public is welcome to attend.