D29 maintains ‘B’ but sees slight point drop

Williston District 29 saw a slight drop on its 2014 federal report card, though two of its three schools improved their scores.
The district dropped a little more than two points - from 85.7 in 2013 to 83.4 this year - but maintained its ‘B' letter grade overall. The report card is in response to a waiver the state was granted in 2011 from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
"We are encouraged by our ESEA grades. The changes made last year in the calculations of proficient allowed schools to show more accurate proficiency scores. The data provided to us from these scores will allow us to pinpoint areas of strength and areas that we will need to focus more closely upon," said Interim Superintendent Dr. Carol Lenderman.
Kelly Edwards Elementary School saw the largest gain by raising its rating from a ‘C' last year to a ‘B' this year. They earned an 83.8 this year, up from the 74.2 in 2013.
The school was also recognized as a Title 1 Reward School for Performance, a classification for the highest performing Title 1 schools in the state. Lenderman said this distinction shows the school "is doing a fantastic job educating all of our students even though it is considered a school with poverty."
"Our students are making huge gains, and it is all due to the committed efforts of our faculty and staff, and the partnerships we are making with our parents and community members. To be a Title I Reward School is the ultimate affirmation that the success of our students will not be defined by socioeconomic status. I am so proud of all of the people at Kelly Edwards who work tirelessly to make that possible," said Principal Nakeisha Baxley.
Williston-Elko High School's rating rose from a ‘B' in 2013 to an ‘A' this year - or from an 86.5 to 90.7.
"It has not taken me very long to figure out that Williston-Elko High School has great teachers as well as a supportive community leading the way for our young people. The ESEA grade is a direct reflection of the hard work that our faculty and staff dedicate to student success each day. I have no doubt that we will continue to be one of the best high schools in the state," said Joel Mitchell, who is in his first year as principal of WEHS.
Williston-Elko Middle School was the only school in the district to drop - from an ‘A' in 2013 to a ‘B' in 2014. They earned an 80.1 this year compared to last year's 95.5, but still met the state's expectations of a ‘C' or better, according to the report card.
"This was due largely in part to the middle school having a disabled sub-group for the first time and that impacted their federal calculations," said Lenderman. She was referring to how they previously didn't have the 30-student minimum to be classified as a sub-group.
"ESEA supports eligible schools and districts eager to raise the academic achievement of struggling learners, and address the complex challenges that arise among students who live with disability, mobility problems, learning difficulties, poverty, transience and the need to learn a second language. Although we moved down a letter grade, we are still proud of the efforts put forth by our teachers, staff and especially our students. We are aware of why we moved down a letter grade and are working toward improving that area next time," said WEMS Principal Greg Sweet.