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Two years ago, Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) began implementing its ambitious five-year strategic plan with one broad goal in mind — to improve outcomes for all students. Together, we got focused, worked hard, and now we are seeing encouraging results. Recently, the state released its annual report card. In most areas, our scores have improved — dramatically in some cases — over the year before. Here are a few highlights:

• Rapid City’s two comprehensive high schools are performing above the state in both math and English Language Arts (ELA).

• Our elementary ELA scores have increased, particularly at the fourth grade level. Six of the 15 elementary schools in our district saw their scores climb by 10 percent or more last year in one or more grade levels.

• Math scores are up at the elementary level. Seven of our 15 elementary schools saw a 10 percent or more increase in one or more grade levels.

• Math scores at the 11th grade level are up. ELA remained the same.

• Graduation rates continue to climb each year. In fact, our overall graduation completion rate has climbed by seven percent between 2015 and 2018.

We are excited about our progress, and while we are certainly celebrating our successes, we know there is much more work to do. Our ELA scores remained the same for our middle school students, but we saw middle school math scores drop. Fortunately, we are looking at new curriculum to strengthen our math proficiency at the secondary level. The new curriculum will be selected this school year and rolled out next school year. Although our science scores dipped last year, there are a number of new efforts happening in our district this school year aimed at strengthening our STEM efforts. We now have STEAM2 (science, technology, engineering, art, math, and medicine) programming at all of our elementary and middle schools.

While state report cards and assessment data are important performance indicators, there are a number of other initiatives and happenings in our district that show RCAS is a district focused on growth and innovation. Here are just a few:

• More high school students than ever before are engaging with community businesses through work-based learning opportunities. More than 537 of our high school students earned industry certifications last year.

• RCAS is set to launch the RCAS Academies at both Central and Stevens high schools in the fall of 2020.

• The district has more volunteers than ever before at 293 and growing, and 280 businesses have partnered with RCAS to work with students in one capacity or another.

• RCAS has one of the most elite fine arts programs in the region, winning state competitions and representing the majority of students in all-state competitions.

These are just a few highlights, but I think they are important to share. Our staff and students deserve a pat on the back. They have been working hard and living up to our district’s tag line: Inspire. Innovate. Excel. Rapid City has a promising future! We in the Rapid City Area Schools are proud to be a part of it.

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Lori J. Simon is the superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools.

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