Hastings outperforms state in reading and math, but achievement gap still there

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Statewide test results show that Hastings Public School District is outperforming the state when it comes to reading and math. Hastings shows a math proficiency level 10.8 percent higher than the state and a reading proficiency level that is nearly 3 percent higher. However that doesn’t mean there still isn’t work to do.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that any student who enters our school, that we do the very best we can for them,” said Jennifer Reichel, director of teaching and learning at the district office.

The school board has asked to take a look at the achievement gap within the district and Reichel was the one who took a deeper look at the data. She said Hastings has a predominantly white demographic but 10 percent is minority groups. That’s a 3 percent increase in the minority group population over the course of 11 years.

“So we aren’t seeing a huge shift in our demographics, which doesn’t mean we can ignore things,” Reichel said.

Hastings Public Schools is seeing more proficient results than the state average, but there are still visible achievement gaps between white students and the six other student groups the state recognizes.

For example, the American Indian/Alaskan Native population in Hastings show a 50 percent proficiency, but there was an 8 percent dip from the past year. It’s important to note that there were three more students in the testing group, which could significantly affect the percentage.

Asian/Pacific Islander students are 70.6 percent proficient in math, Hispanic students are 55.6 percent proficient, black students are 52.9 percent proficient, free or reduced lunch students are 51.6 percent proficient, special education students are 31.7 percent proficient and white students are 71.9 percent proficient in math.

“We want to make sure we outperform the state, but we also want to look at how we are going to incrementally grow each year,” Reichel said.

Before figuring out solutions to the achievement gap, Reichel said it was a good idea to see how the schools are performing and make sure Hastings is on the right track. That is why looking at the data was a good start to a larger conversation. In comparison, school board member Vince O’Brien said Hastings shouldn’t focus on outperforming the state because it should be targeting its energies for all students to perform.

“The contrast would be to focus on helping all students at all levels of proficiency grow and improve — and allocating resources accordingly,” O’Brien said.
The topic of proficiency in the school district is a major topic, O’Brien said, but he is impressed with the way Reichel is handling the issue.

“I believe her leadership on these and many other aspects of our education in the district will have us going in the best possible directions and achieving the best possible ends for us,” O’Brien said.