Fewer than half of Stoughton students scored proficient or better in reading on the state’s standardized test last fall, while 58 percent reached that mark in math, according to results recently released by the state.
School officials both here and across Wisconsin had warned that student scores for this school year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, the state’s longtime standardized test, would fall compared to past years because the state is now applying a more rigorous method of determining student proficiency on the exam. That higher standard is meant to prepare school districts for a new, computer adaptive standardized test that all students will begin taking within two years.
“The scoring changes do not reflect a change in the abilities of students, but rather reflect the higher standards and aspirations Wisconsin has for its students and schools,” superintendent Tim Onsager wrote in his new blog for the district.
The vast majority of parents in the Stoughton Area School District are satisfied with the district and would recommend the schools here to a friend moving into the area, according to the results of a parent survey released recently.
A total of 82 percent of the survey’s respondents said they were either very satisfied or satisfied with the district, while 80 percent either strongly agreed or agreed that they would recommend the school district to a friend.
The survey, conducted during the winter by the Slinger, Wis.-based research and survey firm School Perceptions, drew 798 responses and sought parents’ take on areas such as district initiatives, communication, instruction, bullying and general satisfaction. The survey showed parents held a largely positive view of the district and that Stoughton had improved in many areas compared to results from a similar survey in 2009.
Stoughton school officials began grappling with how to balance school security with community access on Monday night.
No action is expected anytime soon on a set of potential safety improvements presented to the school board. Officials decided that they wanted input from the district’s parent groups and more information about the pros and cons of the various alternatives, which ranged from new, secured entrances for the elementary and middle schools to new voice and video intercom systems to help identify and “buzz in” visitors at the main entrances of all schools, before advancing any proposal.
Much of the discussion during Monday night’s board meeting turned on how to strike a balance between strengthening security and maintaining the tradition of welcoming, accessible schools that is part of the district’s identity.
“This is a new order,” board member Pat Volk said of the proposals. “This is a game-changer. This is all different.”
Student breakfast prices will rise by 10 cents next year and lunch prices by 5 cents under action taken April 22 by the school board.
The board voted unanimously to raise the prices to comply with federal requirements.
Lunch fees will rise from $2.05 to $2.10 for elementary school students, from $2.20 to $2.25 for the middle school and from $2.25 to $2.30 for the high school. Breakfast prices would jump from $1.20 to $1.30 for the elementary school and from $1.35 to $1.45 for the middle and high schools. Current milk and adult meal prices would remain unchanged.
That increase was one of several fees approved by the board during the April 22 meeting. The board also:
This time, it’s grown-ups who will come to Fox Prairie Elementary School to learn.
Fox Prairie has been selected as just one of six schools in the country to be studied by a new University of Kansas (KU) center that is developing a national model for how general and special education students can be educated together, the university announced last week. It’s the latest accolade for the Stoughton Area School District’s inclusive teaching approach, in which all students are educated in the same classroom instead of being pulled out either because they are disabled, struggling or gifted.
“This is such a wonderful affirmation,” Fox Prairie principal Mike Jamison said, not just for Fox Prairie but also for “all the work that has gone on in Stoughton for the last 10 years.”
Stoughton High School generally posted strong graduation rates again last year, according to results released earlier this month by the state.
Wisconsin already had three different grad rates depending on the time frame in which students obtained their degree. The state this year added a fourth when compiling results for the 2011-2012 school year.
Regardless, Stoughton’s rates nearly met or exceeded 96 percent in all four.
Stoughton had a 95.8 percent rate when using the “four-year rate,” or the percentage of students who obtained their degree within four years, according to information from the Department of Public Instruction. That compares to 95 percent the preceding year and 94.2 percent the year before that. Its five-year graduation rate increased from 95 percent in 2010-11 to 98.1 percent last year.
When the Stoughton school board met Monday night, it was the first time in more than nine years it did so without having John Pundt as a member.
Pundt, a senior behavioral health consultation specialist at the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, opted not to seek a fourth term this year after working with three superintendents and working on two different referendum issues – one that failed in 2005 and one that passed in 2010. He has high praise for the district, and his colleagues have high praise for him.
Much of what he shared in an interview with Hub centered on his own education as a board member – a process that the three new board members have just begun. One of the lessons they will learn is about the constraints of the office itself, he said. Another is just how much there is to learn. And as the district eyes a potential referendum next year, he has insights into why the 2005 measure failed.
Teachers would face more defined criteria for being fired in the middle of the school year after the school board approved revisions to the employee handbook earlier this month.
The revised handbook allows a teacher to be terminated for “misconduct” and now provides 10 examples of offenses that constitute misconduct, such as unsatisfactory annual performance evaluations, acts of physical abuse or harassment, “immoral conduct” and theft or falsification of school district records.
That new criteria, one of a couple dozen handbook changes approved unanimously by the school board on April 8, will replace a standard where the district could terminate an employee in the midst of the school year for “good and sufficient reason.”
Stoughton educators will get a small raise under an agreement approved by the Stoughton school board Monday night.
The contracts unanimously approved by the board after a closed session will mean an average raise of about 2.6 percent, superintendent Tim Onsager said. Erica Pickett, the district’s director of business services, said in an email that the raises will total $339,000 altogether for the district and its more than 250 full-time teachers.
Negotiations between the district and its teachers union began last year but were in limbo for months after a Dane County judge last fall struck down parts of Act 10, the state law that essentially ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers. That ruling is still under appeal.
Stoughton elementary school students will go to school for 11 minutes longer as part of a new, standardized schedule that starts next school year.
Classes would dismiss at 3:05 p.m. instead of 2:54 p.m. under the new system, which also restructures recess periods and ensures that students in each grade level will take the same core subject classes at the same time, regardless of which of the district’s three elementary schools they attend.
The principals of all three schools have spent the last year working on revising the schedules, they told the school board in an April 8 presentation. The new schedule does not require board approval.
The middle school went to a revised schedule this year, while the high school has already outlined its planned schedule changes for next school year.
“The main factor was to be able to have more standardized blocks of time,” Kegonsa Elementary School principal Fred Trotter told the Hub.