Many of the Hamburg School District’s school improvement scores for the 2018-2019 school year were almost completely flat when compared to the previous year, though one building – Portland Elementary – exceeded national averages for their tests.

The district’s principals presented a broad overview of the testing data to the school board Monday night. Superintendent Tracy Streeter said the scores came in six days later than expected, so the principals were not able to break down the information before the meeting.

“We still thought it was important that you hear it now,” she told the board members.

Noble Elementary Principal Angela Maize said Kindergarten and first grade students showed growth in the target areas, but second grade students surprised the school because they saw a decrease in reading readiness from 65 percent to 60 percent across the year.

“We were definitely surprised by the way students scored at the end of the year because of the interventions teachers were providing to students,” she said. “Of course we know with testing it is just a snapshot; it depends on how that student is feeling that day.”

Albritton Principal Tricia Johnson said third, fourth and fifth grade scores in reading, math and science stayed the same or within one percentage point of last year’s scores.

She said part of the problem the upper elementary school faces is that there is no curriculum on the market that helps teach exactly what or how the ACT Aspire test measures. Because of that, they have difficulty measuring student progress throughout the year.

“In grades three to five, you get one shot,” she said. “You have that one test at the end of the year and don’t hear back until the middle of the summer.

“We don’t have the resources; they don’t release test items for us to practice with, so we are kind of making a shot in the dark. You don’t get to learn along the way, changing what you are teaching and how you are teaching to make sure you have growth.”

Portland Elementary School’s testing exceeded the national average on students scoring “exceeding expectations” or “ready” on the ACT Aspire, except for fifth grade math.

“Every fourth grader raised their grades from the third grade,” Portland Principal Cristy West said. “Fifth graders also did the same thing; they scored much better than when they were fourth graders.”

Hamburg Middle School’s score report was like the report from Albritton in that its scores were essentially the same as last year. Looking at individual student test scores, however, showed that nearly every student showed some growth.

Hamburg High School saw flat or one-point changes in composite scores in ninth and 10th grades.

Students in the 11th grade took the ACT, and the school saw a decline from 11 percent to 7 percent of students who met all the benchmarks in the four areas the test measures.

But even with the apparent flat growth,  the school is actually seeing individual student growth for each student in each individual subject, Assistant Principal Leslie Nelms said.

“In other words, the student entered the school and left better than they began the school year,” she said. “Now we just need to increase it more than a little bit.”

In other news:

-Finance Director John Spradlin told the school board that the district’s fiscal year-end report showed a deficit of approximately $37,000 in cafeteria operations. That cost would offset by approximately $7,000 in reimbursements the district would receive for its summer feeding program, he said.

If the district also factors in the cost of minimum wage increases and pay increases that the board approved earlier this year, the actual operational deficit is closer to $15,000, he said.

The district is considering different ways to raise revenue in the cafeteria, Spradlin said.

Overall, the district will end the year approximately $540,000 better than it did last fiscal year.

“We are in pretty good shape going into whatever we will face,” Spradlin said.

-The board voted to accept Streeter’s recommendation that the district pay half of the school resource officer’s salary. When the SRO program was implemented, the district only paid a quarter of the salary, with the Hamburg Police Department covering the rest, but Streeter said that in light of a conversation with Hamburg Mayor Dane Weindorf in which he discussed increased costs to the city, the SRO partnership needs to be a full one.

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