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District works to close achievement gaps

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news Cloquet, 55720
Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

The price of more money from the state of Minnesota became apparent at Monday’s meeting of the Cloquet School Board — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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The district received more money from the Minnesota Legislature last year but as a result, now has to deal with a new state regulation called “World’s Best Work Force (WBWF).”

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough made a public presentation on Monday night to outline the state’s requirements — and showed off what the district is already doing to meet them.

“When the state gives you money, they tend to want something back for it,” Scarbrough joked. “Their requirement is World’s Best Work Force.”

The goal of the WBWF program is to reduce the “achievement gap” between student groups of various ethnicities by 50 percent by 2017. The Cloquet School District is already on track to do this according to a letter from Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.

Scarbrough noted, however, that the state’s approach isn’t exactly optimal.

“Like many of the state mandates, pushing the same goals onto each school district does not make sense,” he said. “State statistics and resulting goals should be for state level, not district level. Nevertheless, we do agree with the concept of this state goal and are working hard to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the achievement gaps within our subgroups.”

The plan has five benchmarks:

  •  Closing the achievement gap;
  •  All students ready for kindergarten;
  •  All students achieving grade level literacy by the end of third grade;
  •  All students achieving career and college readiness before graduating from high school; and
  •  All students graduating from high school.

Scarbrough then presented a list of dozens of programs implemented across the district to assist students in need, noting that the district’s 10 math and reading subgroups are already performing above group levels, making reduction of the achievement gap more difficult.

“This reduction of 50 percent is supposed to occur at the same time we are raising the proficiency rate of all students,” he said. “The proficiency of targeted subgroups will have to progress much faster than just closing a 50 percent measurement of two years ago.”

Still, though, it’s a nice problem to have.

“I look at the Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program, which is going to graduate 15 students on Thursday,” he said. “Those are 15 students who might not have graduated under other circumstances.”

In other board news:

  •  The board approved a 10-cent increase to meal prices for the 2014-15 school year. Breakfast prices will rise to $1.50 for students and $2.35 for adults with lunch prices at $2.20, $2.40 and $2.50 at elementary, middle school and high school levels, with adult lunch at $3.60.
  •  The board approved a one-year agreement with the Paraprofessionals Union through June 30, 2014, which includes a 1.5 percent pay increase, the same as for teachers in the current contract.
  •  The board voted to dissolve the boys tennis cooperative program with Esko and Carlton, who do not provide players to the existing team. Competing as a single school will allow Cloquet to drop to Section 7A, where it is expected to be more competitive.
  •  The board heard from grounds supervisor Keith Marti on the start of work to repair the high school track, which will begin on June 9. Upper Midwest of Anoka was awarded the contract to do the work for $89,000, but Marti noted that should workers find cracks in the track’s asphalt under the rubberized surface, a new layer will need to be laid down at a potential added cost of up to $40,000. Marti estimated the chances of needing new asphalt at about 50-50. Marti noted that the track was last fully resurfaced in 1989, and the 25-year life of the surface far exceeded its expected life.
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