At a recent Vinton Lion’s Club meeting, Vinton-Shellsburg school Superintendent Mary Jo Hainstock gave an update concerning the school district and student performance on standardized tests.
“I want to make it clear that standardized test scores aren’t the only or even the most important measure of student achievement,” said Mary Jo, “but the tests are mandated, and schools are judged based on those scores. So let’s take a look at how we did.”
Statistically, schools can expect about 60 percent of students to be proficient. Performance scores across the entire district were impressive, but a few numbers stood out. In the 3rd grade, 100% of the students tested were proficient in science. In math, those students were 96% proficient, and 93% were proficient in reading.
“Our third-grade class was the leader in the entire Grant Wood AEA,” Mary Jo said, “and the Grant Wood AEA includes many of the largest districts in the state, including Cedar Rapids, Linn-Mar, and the Iowa City school district. What excites me about their performance is that it is an indication of how the community is doing as a whole, from the involvement of parents, preschools, pre-Kindergarten, and our early elementary years.”
Another extremely bright spot was the 9th-grade class, averaging 90% proficiency in reading, math, and science. “Today’s kindergartners will be high school graduates in 2030,” said Mary Jo, “and I would like you to think about what they will need to be proficient in when they graduate. What will they need to know and be able to do if they are ready for college or work, prepared to have a productive career, and to lead a satisfying life?”
With that challenge in mind, she shared a list of competencies and asked the Lions in attendance to circle the six items they thought would be most important for today’s kindergarten students. If you would like to choose your six items, click here.
Mary Jo shared that the tax levy for the school will go down next year and that by paying-off some bond debt early, the district will save taxpayers almost $100,000 in interest costs.
Of significant concern in the coming years is the projected decline in school enrollment. “It’s projected that within ten years, 50% the state’s K-12 students will be enrolled in just 20 school districts,” said Mary Jo. “Today there are 333 school districts in the state, and many of them, like ours, have projected declines in enrollment.”
The challenge faced by school districts is that enrollment declines mean funding cuts, but fewer students don’t result in proportionally lower costs. For example, 50 fewer students may not change transportation costs or custodial needs, but a decline of 50 students means about $350,000 in funding is lost.
In summing up, Mary Jo said, “We’ve had a great year. We have a strong board; I enjoy working with a dedicated group of administrators, and I think the work of our entire staff shows in the educational accomplishments of our students.”