Winona Area Learning Center will get help from the state to raise graduation rates

September 1, 2018


The Winona Area Learning Center is one of 485 schools throughout Minnesota that will receive additional support from the state Department of Education, after a new accountability system found the school to be lagging in four-year graduation rates for its students.

The data system, called North Star, was rolled out this year to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act put in place under the Obama administration. Meant to broaden the scope of school success beyond simply looking at test scores, it assesses academic achievement, academic progress, progress toward English language proficiency, graduation rates and attendance in Minnesota’s public schools.

Support from the state based on how each school performed is split into three sections: comprehensive support (for which the most resources are given), targeted support and other support. Overall, 147 high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent will receive support to raise them.

As of this year, 25.73 percent of students attending the Winona Area Learning Center graduated within four years. The center is meant for students who have difficulty achieving in the more traditional middle school and high school settings, and provides a smaller atmosphere and more personalized learning environment for those students, according to superintendent Rich Dahman.

Though enrollment tends to fluctuate during the year to account for students transferring between the ALC and Winona Senior High School, Dahman said the center expects to start the year with about 80 students.

“We really want to make sure that students do graduate,” Dahman said, but added that school officials also realize that for some students it may take more than four years. For ALC students who may come into the school already behind in credits, he said the best thing to do is to personalize learning and identify individual student needs.

The first step in state support will be a Sept. 10 webinar from the Department of Education, followed by a meeting to generate a plan for improving the graduation rates. Dahman said the support and resources will stem from the state’s closest Regional Center of Excellence in Rochester and that process would begin right away this fall.

“It’s really at a learning stage right now for us,” Dahman said of the accountability data and the new opportunity for resources. But overall, he said, it’s a good reminder that the district has to continue to work with every student to get them prepared for life after high school.

The data set also gives recognition to schools that have met or exceeded a threshold in any of the five assessment areas. Winona Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School and the now-closed Rollingstone Community Elementary School all received recognition for consistent attendance either throughout the school or for specific student populations, while Goodview Elementary School received recognition for students’ math and reading progress.

More information about North Star and resources for identified schools can be found on the Minnesota Department of Education’s website.

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