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Enrollment data is in, declining trend noted – St. John News

By Josh Meyer Superintendent $350 Special to the News

September 20, 2022 marked the official count day for enrollment at USD 350. This year, we had 345 students enrolled and attending on count day. This is up one from last year. The average per grade is a little over 23 students. The high school has 92 students which puts us at class 1A for activities again this year. While we are seeing a slight declining trend, it is only in the neighborhood of a couple of kids per year.

Every year, students take state assessments in the spring. These tests are administered for math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and again in grade 10. How students perform on these tests is communicated in categories from 1 through 4, with 4 being the highest level of performance. Students scoring in categories 2 and up are considered performing at grade level and categories 3 and up are considered college ready.

For the 2021 assessments, roughly 27% of USD 350 students scored in the top 2 categories (college ready) and 72% of students scored in the top 3 categories (grade level). This year, there has been some change in legislation to redefine “grade level” as levels 3 and up. I cannot speak to the motivation behind the change, but obviously there is a clear difference between the percentage of students that score in categories 2-4 as compared to 3-4. So how are parents and patrons to know the difference, and why does it matter?

First, consider that a score of level 3 on the Kansas assessments for math and reading equates to a 23 on the ACT. College readiness benchmarks for the ACT are 22 for both math and reading. Students that score in the top two levels are likely to score a 23 or better on the ACT. This score is well above the average score for Kansans that take the ACT.

This matters because there is a political narrative that public schools are failing children in Kansas. Redefining what is considered grade-level performance on state tests to make schools look bad is part of this narrative.

In addition to the state assessments, we look at other data points to determine the effectiveness of our schools and identify opportunities for improvement. Students in Kindergarten through 8th grade take nationally normed tests 3 times per year. In the spring of 2022, we had 88% performing at grade level in math and 81% in reading.

The true measure of success is how students do when they leave our school district. There are many ways to define success after high school. One of those is measuring success in post-secondary education (technical school, certificate programs, university). If a student earns a degree, or an industry certificate, or has completed two years of post-secondary education then he or she is considered “successful” in post-secondary education. On average, 63% of USD 350 students meet that benchmark. Compare this to the state average of 52%. While these other data points are not perfect, they do give a better representation of how students in the St. John-Hudson school district are performing. So if you hear that we are failing our students only based on state test scores, you will know that is not true.

The general election is coming up on November 8th. The deadline to register is October 18th and advanced voting begins October 19th. Regardless of your political affiliation or stance on the current issues, it is important that you get out and vote. Many of the statewide races will have a large influence on our school district budget and operations in the months and years to come including governor, legislators, and judicial retention. I encourage you to stay informed and take time to vote.

As always, if you’d like to visit about any of these topics or have other questions or concerns, I can be reached at 620-549-3564 or meyerj@usd350.com. I am proud to be a Tiger and proud to serve USD 350 with Purpose, Passion, and Pride.