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As kids age, test scores go down

Educators are fully aware that as students progress through the school system, test scores on standardized exams fall.

While the reason for that drop hasn't been found, members of the Detroit Lakes School Board discussed test scores and the district's curriculum during their October meeting Monday.

"At lot of districts are trying to analyze what is the root cause of this situation," said district Education Director Lowell Niklaus. "How much of it is actual knowledge and understanding, and how much of it is effort."

He pointed out that close to 73 percent of students passed the MCA-II Grade 10 reading test last spring. Just over 57 percent of sophomores passed the same test in the 2006-07 school year.

The difference, Niklaus said, was that a passing score on the MCA-II reading test was needed to graduate.

While the MCA-II was required to graduate, Niklaus said that's not the only reason for the drop off.

"You can't blow this off to a kid's effort because I don't think that's true," he said.

Instead, Niklaus said the district needs to break down the data, which can be down, to specific areas to see where deficiencies lie.

"The results speak for themselves in that we have a major task here in that we've talked about the drop as they progress from elementary to the middle school," said Superintendent Doug Froke. "That seems to be the focus."

Board Member Tom Seaworth agreed that more data analysis is needed.

"What are we doing with these tests such that across the state that we're dropping from grade three to grade eight?" Seaworth said.

Seaworth said that educational plans are can be implemented by different administrations at the state and federal level without any scientific backing as to why a certain plan is better than another.

"It doesn't matter who you put in there," Seaworth said. "You can put the Independence person in there. It doesn't matter which party, they all think they know better and none of them do.

"I've always wondered if before they make these entire changes, it would be nice to have some sort of requirement that they've shown that these changes have shown to be effective."

Legislators can be swayed on these issues through the public, Seaworth said.

"If they hear loud and clear from parents, school boards and communities that we need help, we need proper support, and we need proper finances," he said. "We need clear direction based on best practices and proper research."

The test results were brought up again as part of an annual report on the district's curriculum, which outlines areas of improvement that the district's staff needs to make.

The analysis states that staff needs to increase their understanding of data obtained from student assessment and develop learning methods based on the data that comes in.

Increasing the use of technology in the classroom and implementing different teaching methods to help all learners were the other goals listed in the report.

Klyve wants tougher alcohol policy for bus drivers

A new drug and alcohol testing policy received a first reading before the board.

The policy addresses pre-hiring, random and reasonable-suspicion testing.

School bus drivers are the only district employees subject to pre-hiring and random testing.

The district is revamping its policy to be aligned with federal Department of Transportation policy dealing with commercial drivers licenses.

Board Chairman Tom Klyve was concerned about some aspects to the policy that stated how soon bus drivers could drive a bus after drinking alcohol.

Under federal law, bus drivers cannot drive a bus within four hours after consuming alcohol.

Klyve wanted to extend that time limit to eight hours so a driver can't stay at a bar until last call at 2 a.m. and then drive. He was also concerned about drivers being able to drive with a blood alcohol level of .04, the legal limit for CDL holders.

"There are two things I don't like," Klyve said. "I don't like that they can drive with .04 and within four hours of them drinking."

District Human Resources Director Nancy Olson said the district should look into the matter because of the fact that the policy restricts the right to consume a lawful substance.

"There is some lawful consumption legislation going on out there, too, that could be mirrored to this because alcohol is a legal substance," Olson said.

In the end, Klyve requested that the administration ask the state or the Minnesota School Boards Association to see if the district can be stricter in its drug and alcohol policy than state standards.

The board also decided on a date to hold a special meeting to canvass the Nov. 4 School Board election results.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 5.