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Menahga releases math test scores

Forty-one percent of Menahga juniors passed the MCA II math test, which before this Legislative session, determined whether students graduate in 2010.

Lawmakers decided that students could pass the test on the first try or fail three times and still obtain a diploma.

The test is "extremely difficult" and principal Mary Klamm said she's disappointed in the results.

"What disturbs me is that only 41 percent of our students passed," she said, compared to the state average of 57 percent.

Which is why Klamm and elementary principal Joleen DeLaHunt proposed adding four staff development days to the 2009-10 calendar.

The school board unanimously approved the request that will help math teachers improve their teaching skills and plan to increase students' scores.

But one school board member disagreed.

"In the past, it just seems like some of these things are a waste of time," said treasurer Curtis Hasbargen adding that it took about three years of staff development to improve reading scores.

The reading test came in at 85 percent this year, which is well above the state average of 78 percent. Ninety-five percent of ninth graders passed the writing test compared with 89 percent statewide.

Hasbargen said he's concerned with the additional staff development days because it wouldn't be accurately following the teachers' contracts.

It would cost around $350 per teacher and it doesn't give 174 student days that are required by the contract.

"I question whether you're going to gain that back and I question not following the contract," Hasbargen said. "I find that a little bit disturbing."

However, Superintendent Jerry Nesland said the Minnesota Department of Education counts staff development and parent/teacher conferences as student days so there won't be any violations.

He also told the board that most districts in Minnesota allow for 10 staff development days. With the four additional days, Menahga will end up with 10 days as well; four are early outs.

All elementary teachers and high school math teachers will participate in the staff development days. The rest of the high school teachers will focus on other teaching skills such as differentiation. They will learn how each student learns and how to challenge each student appropriately.

"Literacy is tied to everything," DeLaHunt said.

In other business, the board:

-Approved revising the current budget due to the ventilation project.

The new 2009-10 budget includes $9,824,051 of revenue and $8,136,474 of expenditures.

-Approved the 2010-2011 interim budget with $7,535,864 revenue and $9,791,233 expenditures. The $2.2 million ventilation project is recognized as receipts in the 2009 budget but expense in the 2010 budget.

-Approved painting elementary classrooms now that they're cleared out due to the ventilation project.

-Approved modifying elementary and high school policy handbooks. The revised policy emphasizes the new instant alert system that allows parents to sign up for phone, e-mail and text messaging alerts of school closings and other important announcements.