St. Louis students fall short of academic growth goals following mid-year test

By Ralph Echtinaw

The mid-year academic assessment results for St. Louis schools are in, and the district fell short of its goal to get students back on track following the COVID pandemic of 2020-21.

“We’ve got to change that trajectory that our students are on,” said Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick at the Feb. 21 school board meeting. 

Asked for clarification by email, she added this: “Due to students missing out on school during COVID they missed out grade level instruction, therefore we need to meet our students where they are currently at and continue to work to get them to grade level.”

During the COVID pandemic, St. Louis schools were closed for in-person instruction for 52 days during the 2019-2020 school year and 18 days during the 2020-2021 school year. However, McKittrick cautions that “I do not have that verified yet.” 

Learning was also disrupted by “students who were out due to COVID quarantines, online learning, and staff out for COVID quarantines,” McKittrick added.

The mid-year academic assessment comprised a reading and math benchmark test administered to students in kindergarten through the tenth grade.

“We want all our students to grow more than a year so we can get back on course,” McKittrick told the school board.

“There are national averages on the rate of growth we should expect in a student in a year,” the superintendent said via email. “In the event a student is below grade level we need to find a way to excel the growth in order to move them closer to grade level.”

“We want all our students to grow more than a year so we can get back on course.”

Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick

McKittrick showed board members a chart of mid-year academic growth data.

Some 40.7 percent of students districtwide reached their mid-year growth goals. However, that does not include students who are already at the benchmark for academic growth. 

“The data is based on growth, not academic achievement,” McKittrick said via email. “We measure growth and academic achievement, and the chart only represents growth. At the end of the (school) year, I will present growth AND academic achievement. Therefore, the graphs do not show the whole picture at this time. They only represent mid-year data.”

Staff bonus money

For the second year in a row everyone who works for St. Louis schools are getting a bonus, thanks to the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

Support staff get $750 each. Central office administrative assistants get $1,000 each. Teachers and administrators get $1,500 each. That’s a total of $165,855 that will be in March 24 paychecks. Everyone got the same amounts last year.

Food prep tables purchased

The school board approved purchase of three stainless steel food preparation tables from Tri-Mark for $10,542.

Also bidding were Stafford-Smith ($34,385) and The Restaurant Store ($8,295). The latter, although it was the low bid, didn’t meet specifications or include installation. 

Sharks Technology Foundation

The Sharks Technology Foundation has a fundraiser scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at city hall. Tickets are $40 per person. Reservations will be accepted through Monday, March 6. Tickets can be purchased at any school office or at Flegel Tech Repair in downtown St. Louis (where St. Louis Variety once was).

Phone application 

The school district has upgraded its web site and added a phone application so parents and students can get announcements as soon as they are made.

“We want as many families and staff on this as possible,” McKittrick told the school board. “We will do all cancelations and alerts through our app. This is going to enhance communication to our public. And also promote the great things we have going on.”

You can download the app from the iOS App Store or the Android Play Store.

Sixth grade camp

The board approved $2,000 to pay for this year’s sixth grade camp. “Every year we take our sixth graders to an overnight camp, sponsored by our teachers,” McKittrick said. “They do fun activities together at camp. This year we are going to The Springs in Gladwin.”

Additions and subtractions

Board members approved the hiring of high school agricultural science teacher Brienna Pennock, 26, varsity boys track head coach Tim DeJong, 28, and varsity baseball head coach Hunter Frisbie, 24.

Pennock graduated from St. Louis High School in 2015.

DeJong is a long-term substitute teacher and former Division 2 athlete at Cedarville University, where he was on the track and field team.

Frisbie has been assistant varsity coach for three years.

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