Enrollment down 2.5% from 2016-17

HOT SPRINGS – The 2016-17 report card for the Hot Springs School District has been released by the S.D. Department of Education. And while the district is mostly in line with statewide averages, a closer comparison to last year’s report card shows increasing scores in the middle school, but decreasing scores in both the elementary and high school.

According to Curriculum Director Samantha Weaver – who presented a report to the Hot Springs School Board at their regular meeting last week on Monday, Oct. 9 – the state’s schools are graded based on Smarter Balanced testing that is done annually in Grades 3 through 8 in the elementary and middle school, and then with only Grade 11 in the high school. The tests cover English/Language/Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and are aligned with Common Core standards.

Scores are represented by a number known as SPI, or School Performance Index, with three primary indicators: Student Achievement; High School Completion (HS)/Academic Growth (Elem/MS); College and Career Readiness (HS)/Attendance (Elem/MS).

Overall, the numbers Hot Springs Elementary, Middle and High Schools place each of them again in the middle-of-the-road classification known as Progressing Schools, which is where 449 of the state’s 663 schools fall into. Progressing Schools are described as having a SPI less than the top-10 percent and greater than the bottom 5 percent.

When compared to the previous year’s 2015-16 SPI score of 50.80, the Hot Springs Middle School this year (2016-17) showed an improvement of nearly two points to 52.54.

Showing decreasing scores were both the Hot Springs Elementary – 55.00 in 2015-16, down to a 50.84 in this year; and, the Hot Springs High School – 63.33 in 2015-16, down to 60.82 this year.

Despite the lower scores in two of the three Hot Springs schools, Weaver said all three schools compared similarly to statewide SPI averages. To demonstrate, when broken down into the specific testing categories, the Hot Springs School District compared to the State SPI numbers as follows:

•Student Achievement ELA (adding together three years of test results): State 52.40; District 51.45 (-.95).

•Student Achievement Math: State 46.34; District 45.89 (-.45).

• Academic Growth ELA (how much student grew based on peers): State 55.69; District 51.82 (-3.87).

• Academic Growth Math: State 52.81; District 54.74 (+1.93).

• Student Attendance: State 79.32; District 77.49 (-1.83).

• Four Year Graduation: State 83.74; District 83.33 (-.41).

In her presentation, Weaver provided comparisons to some other Black Hills area school districts similar in size and proximity, which showed Hot Springs Elementary School (50.84) scoring higher than Custer (49.15), Edgemont (44.18), and Lead-Deadwood (43.67), but lower than Hermosa (53.54) and Hill City (62.80).

Hot Springs High School (60.82) compared higher than Edgemont (57.06) but lower than Custer (62.59), Hill City (77.52) and Lead-Deadwood (68.28).

However, Hot Springs Middle School (52.54) scored the highest amongst all the comparisons in Weaver’s presentation – Custer (42.27), Hill City (51.97) and Lead-Deadwood (46.63).

Through the findings learned from the South Dakota DOE Report Card, Weaver also identified to the school board some of the district’s strengths, as well as areas that should be focused upon for growth. She said the district’s strengths include Student Attendance; High School Completion; Middle School Increased Overall SPI; and the Non-Gap Student Scores in ELA and Math..

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Areas to focus on in the district, she said, included Gap Student scores in ELA and Math; increasing the percentage of students in higher levels of ELA and Math; and, identifying target areas of weakness in ELA and Math. She added that a planned Oct. 20 in-service will have teachers working together and looking at the data more closely to determine target areas in increase student achievement and academic growth

(The Gap group includes any student who belongs to one or more of the following subgroups: Black; Hispanic; American Indian/ Alaskan Native; English Language Learner; Students with Disabilities; Economically Disadvantaged. Students not belonging to any of these groups are included in the Non-Gap group.)

Later in the meeting under New Business, board members Mark Walton and Dustin Kleinsasser updated the other board members on progress their committee had made on plans to construct a new boiler system for the Hot Springs Middle School and High School. After holding a few meetings on the topic with other school personnel, they said their recommendation was to use a Design/Build approach by putting the project out for bids with the intent of hiring a firm that will handle all phases of the project, from start to finish, as a means to keep it all under one roof.

A special board meeting was then set up for Monday, Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. to finalize that plan.

Also under New Business, the board unanimously approved adding nearly $30,000 to its Capital Outlay Budget, thanks to a donation from the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame Committee.

The Hall of Fame Committee has been raising funds for the past year to install stadium bench seating at Woodward Field. The entire project will total approximately $50,000 when completely finished. With the $30,000 the organization has raised thus far, the project is slated to begin construction in November with 15 rows of aluminum seating to be installed in the center of the grand stand. The first 10 rows will have blue-colored back rests. It is hoped once the remaining funds are secured that the rest of the project – to include aluminum bleachers on both sides of the grandstand as well – can be completed by next year’s football season.

During administrative remarks at the end of the meeting, Superintendent Kevin Coles did not have good news to report in terms of enrollment numbers, and noted that the district would likely be receiving decreased funding from the state due to lower than expected student numbers for the 2017-18 school year.

Based on the official count conducted at the end of September, the district’s total enrollment came in at 784 students, a drop of 20 students (or 2.5%) from last year’s total of 804. The decreased number represents the most significant drop in enrollment over the past six years. From the 2012-13 school year to the 2016-17 school year, numbers remained very consistent, ranging from 804 – 808 – 801 – 811 – 804.

Coles said it was very difficult to say for certain why the drop this year, as there are many factors, but could be just as simple as more families with school-aged students moved out of the district, than moved into the district this year.

While enrollment numbers are not the only factor that determines the amount of state funding a school receives, it does still play a role in the state’s formula – as does teacher accountability and overhead costs, Coles said. He also however added that the school did receive a letter that it has met the state’s accountability standards, which was very good news, he said

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