BSD: State test results mixed

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Brookings lags behind some ESD districts, but ACT scores consistently high

BROOKINGS – The Brookings School District has received the results on students’ state standardized test results from the 2017-2018 school year, and there were several key takeaways.

The first is that Brookings and other school districts consistently have better scores for English language arts (ELA) than math, and that’s true this year as well.

Second is that Brookings is lagging behind other ESD school districts in some areas. That’s of interest to Brookings School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michelle Vande Weerd and the district at large because that stands in contrast to Brookings’ consistently high ACT scores.

The test results provide the district an important snapshot of how the district performs in a number of different areas from year to year. Vande Weerd presented the results for the 2017-2018 school year during the Nov. 26 school board meeting.

The district was delayed in getting the results because of the South Dakota Department of Education, according to Vande Weerd, who said the department was delayed because it revamped its report card system to be more parent and community friendly, and it also had to deal with implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

As Vande Weerd noted, the data presented is only preliminary at the moment because school districts have an opportunity to appeal the results if they believe an error has been made. The official results will then be released on Dec. 17.

Vande Weerd said that she will meet with leadership teams from each of the school buildings to go over these results in deeper detail.

One way Brookings might improve in the future is improved attention and assistance to some disadvantaged demographic groups if follow-up investigating from the district and administrators finds a need for it, but such things are yet to be determined, said Vande Weerd.

The report covers a variety of categories that districts were tested on, such as student performance, student growth and college and career readiness.

English and math

Student performance measures proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and math in the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the Alternative Assessment for students in grades three through eight and grade 11.

BSD student performance in ELA has been in a slight decline in the last four years. For school years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, 61 percent of students tested were deemed proficient in ELA. That dipped to 57 percent in 2016-2017. For the 2017-2018 school year, the score improved somewhat with 58 percent of students deemed proficient in ELA.

For math, 52 percent of Brookings students were proficient in the 2014-2015 and 2016-2017 school years. In 2015-2016, it was 51 percent. For 2017-2018, only 50 percent of students were considered proficient in math.

Vande Weerd said that Brookings is lagging behind other ESD school districts in ELA proficiency.

Brookings is also lagging behind other districts in math proficiency. Here, Brookings performed similarly to Watertown (51 percent proficiency) and Yankton (54 percent). The only school district with a lesser rating was Huron, at 41 percent, although that represents quite the improvement in four years, as it had scored 25 percent in the 2014-2015 school year and has improved every year since.

Most other schools have seen positive trends and improvements in their math proficiency scores, but Brookings has remained relatively steady in its rating.

Student progress

The student progress section only covers students in grades four through eight. After their first test, which provides a baseline mark, students are put into a statewide group of peers that are in similar starting points and have similar expected outcomes.

There are three categories that a student can fall into and still earn the district points: keeping up, catching up and very high growth.

Keeping up refers to students are considered proficient and are projected to remain proficient.

Catching up refers to those students who aren’t yet considered proficient but are close enough and making enough growth that they are believed to become proficient.

Very high growth refers to students who are not proficient and are unlikely to become proficient, but yet are achieving significant growth.

The reported percentage of student growth in ELA and math indicates the percentage of students in one of those three categories.

“Last year (for the 2016-2017 school year) with ELA, we had a bit of a dip. Now, it’s trending back up again. Math, again, not a ton of variation in the last three years, but it is down a smidge,” having gone from 52 percent to 50 and now 49, Vande Weerd said.

When compared to other ESD schools’ ELA growth, Vande Weerd said there were some similarities to note, including a dip in the 2016-2017 year and an increase this year. Although Brookings performed slightly above the state average, Brookings had one of the lower scores when compared to other ESD school districts.

“Math (growth) was a little all over the board when you look at the different schools,” she said.

Brookings was the lowest scoring of the ESD peer districts in this category, and underperformed compared to the state average, which was 53 percent growth.


There are two measures that look at different aspects of high school graduation. The first one is high school completion, which refers to students who are enrolled in Brookings High School who get either a diploma or a GED, whether they do so in the traditional four years or more. The emphasis here is on completion, not the time in which it took.

The second measure is four-year cohort graduation, which marks the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma. This is typically a lower percentage than the completion metric, according to Vande Weerd, and it fluctuates from year to year.

The 2017-2018 results for the four-year cohort mark an improvement from the steady decline seen in the three preceding years, rising from 84 percent to 87. It’s still below 2014-2015’s 89 percent, however.

The completer metric remains steady compared to the preceding year, showing 95 percent in 2017-2018 and 96 percent in 2016-2017. There was a dip to 91 in 2015-2016, and 2014-2015 was the high point with 97 percent.

Compared to other districts and the state average in the four-year cohort measure, Brookings stacks up well. The same is true in the completion rate measure.

Other measures

Other important high school measures are coursework and assessment, and college and career readiness and higher education. This measure, however, does not refer to those seniors from the 2017-2018 school year, but those students who graduated at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

Brookings performed well against their ESD peers in the coursework portion with the second highest score, only behind Mitchell. Brookings didn’t fare as well in the assessment portion, however, with only slightly above average results.

In terms of college and career readiness, Brookings is above the state average and in the middle of other ESD districts, but ranks the highest in higher education among its peers. This measure is for students who indicate they’re going to attend a technical school or a four-year school after graduation.

In the end, Brookings School Board member Roger DeGroot was concerned with Brookings’ low placement compared to other districts, especially in light of the school district’s ACT scores, which are consistently among the top in the state.

“Brandon Valley is hitting the ball out of the park, and they’re running large class sizes; what’s going on in Brandon versus Brookings? We have the same clientele. We have excellent parents and teachers and students. I think we need to do some digging,” DeGroot said, adding, “I think there are a lot of questions in this report that we need to have answered.”

Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected]


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