Dismal achievement numbers are a wake-up call

Exeter superintendent Dr. Kimberly Minor presented achievement data at the September 7th school board meeting that would make most people feel dejected.

In her report, she outlined the reading and math proficiency numbers along with the pass rates for the 2021 PSSA from grades 3 to 8.

Minor had outlined three academic goals earlier this year for the district’s 2021-24 draft comprehensive plan. Those goals called for 100% of students being proficient in literacy by the end of grade 3, 100% of students being proficient in mathematics by the end of grade 7, and 100% of students graduating on time.

The proficiency data for reading and math she provided are from the 2018-19 school year to avoid skewing data from pandemic-related factors:

Percentage not reading proficient by grade 3 (2018-19)
47% Jacksonwald (Title I school)
42% Lorane (Title I school)
31% Owatin

Grade 8 math proficiency (2018-19)
66% students not proficient in math

Minor also showed the district ranking reported by U.S. News & World Report.

The latest report shows Exeter in the bottom half of both state and national rankings. Exeter is ranked 11,725 out of 17,857 schools nationally and 466 out of 678 schools ranked in Pennsylvania.

Minor then presented the pass rate percentages (shown in the below chart) from the 2021 PSSA results, although it was noted that the pandemic may play some part in the data.

2021 PSSA pass rate

She described the problem as a systems issue and not related to any specific teacher, grade, or school building; ultimately stating the problems we’re seeing are due to poor leadership.

Minor said things are changing fast in the district and some people may feel uncomfortable, but ultimately she believes it needs to happen. “We really have to move with urgency,” she said at the meeting.

Along with changes, a progress monitoring plan will be put in place that provides monthly presentations of data to the board during the committee of the whole meetings.

This problem didn’t happen overnight, but working together now to make the needed adjustments will ultimately improve the district’s academic achievement.

Jason Mell is running for a 4-year term on the Exeter Township School Board. He is a Planning Commissioner for Exeter Township and the former owner of The Exeter Informant. To read more about Jason, visit jasonmell.com.

Exeter’s comprehensive plan pledges 3 academic goals

Dr. Eric Flamm, Director of Teaching and Learning, presented a draft of the Exeter Township School District’s 2021-24 comprehensive plan at last week’s committee of the whole meeting.

The plan aims to reach 3 academic benchmarks in the school district:

  • 100% of students proficient in literacy by the end of grade 3
  • 100% of students proficient in mathematics by the end of grade 7
  • 100% of students graduating on time

Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Minor said the grades defined by the proficiency goals are markers that define a student’s success based on comprehension of math or literacy.

The proposed final plan will be viewable by the public starting on April 21 and would be voted on by the board at the May 24 voting meeting. Flamm indicated the plan is submitted to the state in November.

Jason Mell is running for a 4-year term on the Exeter Township School Board. He is a Planning Commissioner for Exeter Township and the former owner of The Exeter Informant. To read more about Jason, visit jasonmell.com.

Exeter’s graduation rate deemed ‘a crisis’

In November, Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Minor and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Winters gave a presentation to the Exeter Township School District Cirriculum Committee on the district’s academic performance and current challenges.

The presentation focused on the 5-year performance of literacy and math in individual schools and the performance across the entire district.

Beyond performance, Winters emphasized the issue he saw with the district’s graduation rate. Out of 18 school districts in the county, Exeter is tied with Schuylkill Valley and Twin Valley at 15th place; meeting a 2019-20 graduation rate of 90%.

“That’s a major concern. In fact, I’m going to take it a step further and say it’s a crisis,” Winters said.

In attempt to combat this, the district is rolling out a targeted support and improvement (TSI) plan.

Winters said some focus needs to be directed towards students with an individualized education program, or IEP. Specifically, he called out concerns with attendance and the graduation rate within the sub-group.

In the 2018-19 school year, he indicated out of all students with IEPs, 80.5% attended school on a day-to-day basis. He stressed the importance of bringing that number to 100% for these students.

Winters also indicated that the graduation rate for students with an IEP was actually 74% compared to the overall rate of 90%.

Looking at the data, you can also see some concern with falling literacy proficiency among the earlier grades at each of the elementary schools. The district believes focusing on addressing literacy proficiency in early years will also help with the district’s long-term goals.

I appreciate data before subjectivity, and the information presented at the meeting was eye-opening.

The presentation can be viewed here: https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/exeter/Board.nsf/files/BV83BE060F73/$file/November%2010%2C%202020%20CC%20Mtg%20-%20Data%20Presentation.pdf

Video of the meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQFIT7BroBw

Jason Mell is running for a 4-year term on the Exeter Township School Board. He is a Planning Commissioner for Exeter Township and the former owner of The Exeter Informant. To read more about Jason, visit jasonmell.com.