School talks enrollment and achievement

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 11, 2017
It was a short meeting Monday, Oct. 5, for the West Liberty Community School District Board since two members were not present.

However, the board took a look at the numbers, including overall enrollment for WLCSD as well as student achievement in and after graduating from the district.

It came as no surprise to anybody that enrollment is up for the 2017/18 school year for the entirety of the West Liberty district.

Unofficialy, based on attendance there are 1,441 students in the district, up 69 students from last year, which was already up 46 students from the year before that.

“That is unique to us, typically the trend across the state has been declining enrollment, but the last couple of years we have been up,” said Business Manager Brietta Collier.

The numbers are not finalized, the district has until Oct. 15 to come up with a final certified number. But, West Liberty schools are growing.

The Early Learning Center currently has 231 students, with 115 of them in Kindergarten, 92 in Pre-School and the remaining 24 in Pre-Kindergarten.

The elementary school has the most students of all four buildings, a total of 522 students. Third grade leads the way with 127 students, the largest class in WLCSD.

The middle school has 293 students while the high school has 395 students. The high school increased the least, with a current senior class of 101 students.

“It is increasing from year to year,” added Collier, “I know that we had 50 families at registration itself.”

The ELC has gone up 19 students, the elementary school 31 students, the middle school 17 students and the high school 2 students since last year.

President Chris Martin asked if their were any specific reasons behind the growth. Both Manager Collier and Superintendent Joe Potts said they would look for an answer.

Next, Supt. Potts discussed student achievement on Iowa assessments from the 2016/17 school year. Overall the district is doing ok, though it could be better.

“You should know that in most indicators we’re below the state average,” he began. “The reality of our circumstances is that we have achievement gaps in nearly every discipline.”

He was referring to the gap in proficiency between ‘All’ students and ‘English as a Second Language’ (ELL) students.

Specifically, the data examined Iowa assessments in reading, math and science for all students in grades 3-5, 5-8 and 9-11 from last year.

In reading, 72 percent of the district was proficient. However, only 34.7 percent of ELL students were proficient.

The numbers get better in Math were 72.9 percent of all students were at least proficient while 42.5 percent of ELL students were proficient.

Finally, in Science 72. 8 percent of all students were at least proficient while 37.7 percent of ELL students were proficient.

“I haven’t heard a lot of conversation about our achievement gap in our school district, but we do have one and it is rather substantial and it is an area of concern,” said Supt. Potts.

The board will be hearing presentations from the principals of each one of the schools about what they are and will be doing to help close the gap.

That being said, Supt. Potts had some good news regarding student that exit the ELL program, meaning they’ve become fluent in English speaking and understanding.

Approximately 92.5 percent of the students that exited the program in 2015/16 performed at proficient or advanced levels on state tests in reading.

Meanwhile 83 percent of the students that exited the program in 2015/16 performed at proficient or advanced levels on state tests in math.

The numbers are similar from the previous two years as well, meaning students are retaining knowledge and performing after exiting the ELL, which is the ultimate goal of the program.

“So, in other words if you’re in ELL and you exit ELL you perform very well, which is really encouraging,” he said.

Supt. Potts also talked about post secondary success, a look at students in college and universities after graduating from West Liberty High School.

In the fall immediately following graduation in 2016, approximately 63 percent of students enrolled in college. It was 69 percent the year before that.

“That’s pretty common across our region, it’s about 60 percent in our AEA, nationally we’re also seeing that that’s not an uncommon number,” he said.

The same data indicated that approximately 90 percent of students from the class of 2015 that enrolled in college returned for a second year.

Next, Supt. Potts met with West Liberty Foods this week to talk about a partnership that includes Muscatine Community College.

“West Liberty Foods is really interested in a partnership with the school district in terms of a community college advanced engineering and manufacturing track,” he said.

He will continue to communicate with West Liberty Foods over the next couple of weeks to see if there’s potential for a partnership.

Finally, construction is still underway at the newly purchased facility on Elm Street that will soon become the location for the school’s administration offices.

Right now the facility is being painting and the floor has been selected. The administration staff will move over at the end of October and beginning of November.

This will free up room at the Early Learning Center and conclude the first step of a five to six year district-wide make- over, which was discussed in the Sept. 7 edition of the West Liberty Index.
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