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News from the week of November 22, 2006



Tracy schools rank high in state tests


By Valerie Scherbart Quist

For Tracy Area Public Schools, the third time was a charm.

After two years of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on state tests, there was good news for administrators, staff, and students last week. The test results, released on Wednesday, Nov. 15, show that District 417 students made AYP in all tested grade levels and subgroups.

As if that news wasn’t good enough, further examination showed that Tracy students ranked among the highest in the region.

At Tracy Area High School, 64 percent of the students tested passed in math (grades 7, 8, 11) and 75 percent passed in reading (grades 7, 8, 10). The scores were enough to earn Tracy Area High School not only a passing AYP score, but also a five-star rating in reading and a four-star rating in math.

“It feels good,” said TAHS Principal Chad Anderson. “You put that much time and effort into it and to have that kind of success is pretty nice.”

Tracy Elementary scores were good as well. In math, 62 percent of students in third through sixth grades passed and in reading, 89 percent passed. Tracy Elementary earned a five-star rating in reading and a three-star rating in math.

Administrators said that while they were pleased with the test results, trying to compare this year’s results is like comparing apples to oranges.

This was the first year that students took the MCA IIs, which are based on updated standards. More students also took the tests. At the elementary level, four grades (3, 4, 5, and 6) were tested. In previous years, only third and fifth grade students were tested.

There are other factors to consider as well.

Anderson said of the reasons state math scores were so low (32 percent passing statewide) was because not all students in 11th grade have taken the levels of math that are tested. He said that within two years, the whole math curriculum will have to be shifted down a grade as a result.

In addition, it is difficult to compare results from one year to the next because different students are always taking the test.

Finally, said Superintendent Dave Marlette, people should keep in mind that each state sets its own standards, and Minnesota has set its standards very high. Therefore, it is impossible to compare Minnesota test scores to other states.


Changes breed results

Over the past several years, several changes have been implemented in order to better prepare students for these tests.

At Tracy Elementary, the goal is to reach students early said Principal Scott Loeslie.

“For us, it’s all about school readiness,” he said. That means working with students in pre-kindergarten through second grade to make sure they are where they need to be by third grade. Programs for pre-kindergarten students such as the Little Panthers program for 4-year-olds have been implemented in order to reach that younger clientele.

Other changes have included an upgraded ESL program and a revamped Title program. In Title, students have smaller classes and flexible groups so they can advance out once they have reached their goals.

Technology is also extremely important on the elementary level. Programs such as Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math test students on a computer and give them instant results—both of which they enjoy.

“All of the technology we use is really invaluable,” Loeslie said.

Preparation for the tests themselves in addition to what is taught in the classroom was also important. About six weeks prior to the test, students began working on MCA II sample tests. Other resources were also used to better prepare students.

“I think it just became a matter of familiarity,” Loeslie said.

Other tools have included ESL Learners in a Flash and Math Facts in a Flash.

While many improvements have been made, Loeslie said motivation is still an issue. He believes timing is one major factor. With the NWEA tests the students take, they receive instant results and are therefore more motivated to do well. The MCA II tests were administered early this year and the results just received last week. Loeslie also feels the students would do better if the tests were computerized, something the state has said it is working on.

“We have a lot of tools to use,” Loeslie said. “But it really comes down to the teachers in the classroom and parental support.”

At the high school level, efforts have been made to better incorporate reading and math skills across the curriculum, whether it is Family and Consumer Sciences or ag.

Like at the elementary, high school students took sample tests. Principal Anderson said this helped to familiarize students with the tests and take away some of the nervousness students often feel.

Another program that has been implemented on both levels is the after-school program. Accelerated Reader is now being used for seventh and eighth graders. ELL in a Flash is another program being used at both the high school and elementary.

High school students have also had the opportunity to take enrichment reading and math classes. Once their weaknesses are identified, students can work to improve on them with the help of a licensed teacher.

Anderson said another program he credits with helping to improve scores is JMC Online Access. Through JMC Online, parents can access their children’s scores and find out whether they’ve completed homework assignments.

“It’s another way for parents to be involved,” Anderson said.

Also on the high school level, students are now required to take an additional science credit. All juniors are required to take chemistry, which Anderson believes was a boost to their math scores.


What do they mean?

District 417 met the AYP requirement this year, but what exactly does that mean? For the previous two years, TAPS did not make AYP.

Supt. Dave Marlette said it takes two years for a school to get off the “needs improvement” list. If District 417 makes AYP again next year, it will be off the list.

“That would be a tremendous accomplishment,” he said. “We hope we can be there.” He added that it only takes one subgroup not making AYP to put it on the list. Subgroups include special education and Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

If the district does not pass, there are various consequences that get worse with each sequential year on the “needs improvement” list. These consequences include replacing school staff, adopting a new curriculum, decreasing school-level management authority, and extending the school day or year. Title I schools must continue to offer school choice and supplemental services. Schools not making AYP after one year of Corrective Action will be identified for Restructuring.


Future goals

All three administrators agree that the No Child Left Behind requirements have had some positive effects on the district.

“Some kids that we may have been leaving behind are not anymore,” said Loeslie.

Marlette agreed. “It has forced us to re-evaluate,” he said. However, he added, the standards will keep getting tougher and tougher and the expectations higher and higher. Eventually, 100 percent of schools are expected to be proficient.

“The goal is great, but we won’t ever all be 100 percent proficient,” Loeslie said.

“There are no perfect schools,” Marlette added.

Another issue, said Marlette, is that NCLB is an unfunded federal mandate. With each program that the district has added to help students pass these tests, there has been an increase in expenditures. None of those expenditures has been backed up with an increase in funding.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t pleased with the results.

“Everyone is putting out a maximum effort and it shows. This didn’t just happen by itself. I’m proud of everyone,” Marlette said, giving credit to school leadership, the school board, staff, and students. “Today we’ll celebrate but tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”



Area high school results

Math Reading

Tracy 64 % 75 %

Canby 42 69

Dawson-Boyd 54 72

Edgerton 53 63

Lincoln HI 42 63

Lake Benton 32 57

Lakeview 58 70

Luverne 28 66

Marshall 23 60

Minneota 41 55

Murray Co. 59 64

Pipestone 47 69

Red Rock Cent. 55 68

Redwood Area 38 65

Renville Co. W. 37 64

Springfield 57 66

Sleepy Eye 31 44

RTR 22 59

Wabasso 44 73

Westbrook-WG 24 58

Windom 37 76

Worthington 21 62

Yellow Med. E. 37 66


Area elementary school results

Math Reading

Tracy 62 % 89 %

Balaton 51 76

Canby 66 83

Dawson-Boyd 71 78

Edgerton 61 76

Fulda 77 81

Lake Benton 69 67

Lakeview 60 76

Lynd 53 82


Park Side 55 75

West Side 72 85

Milroy 50 77

Minneota 50 62

Murray Co. 82 82

Red Rock Cent. 72 85

Redwood Area 62 84

Renville Co. W. 57 69

RTR 70 83

Wabasso 77 82

Walnut Grove 36 54

Westbrook 67 58


Nominations sought for top Chamber awards

The Tracy Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for “Boss of the Year,” “Outstanding Citizen,” and “Farmer of the Year.”

Nominations can be sent to Tracy Chamber of Commerce, 372 Morgan St., Tracy, MN. 56175 or Deadline for submitting a nomination is Dec. 29.

Winners will be announced at the Chamber’s annual banquet Feb. 3.


Schools get high marks

Education week banquet salutes students & staff

By Seth Schmidt

Jesse James seemed to sum up the sentiments of many at an American Education Week banquet in Tracy Thursday.

“I had a rule when I came to Tracy. I told myself that I would stay in Tracy as long as I was proud of my school. I’ve stayed for 34 years and I’m still proud of it,” said the banquet emcee, who retired in May of 2005 as a high school English instructor.

Supt. David Marlette echoed James’ sentiments.

“I’ve been in many places and I’ve never seen such support for education,” Marlette told a Shetek Bend crowd of 400 people. The superintendent commended District 417 school board members and school staff for their dedication in helping students. The administrator also saluted students for giving Tracy Public School students among the highest state test scores in the area.

“That is just outstanding,” he said. The administrator told students that “you can do whatever you want and go where ever you want” with the education they receive in Tracy.

Scott Loeslie, Tracy elementary school principal, thanked parents for their “continuous support. We would not do what we do without you.”

High School Principal Chad Anderson agreed. “Without parents, we’d be like a ship without a rudder.”

The induction of three people into the Tracy High School Wall of Fame, and a host of student, community and staff awards were among other banquet highlights.


Wall of Fame

Thomas Carey (Class of ‘43), Doris (Halfmann) Zwach (‘48), and the late J. Richard Johnston (‘41) were inducted into the Tracy High School “Wall of Fame.”

Marlette said that all three shared a strong sense of service to others. He shared a quote attributed to Mother Teresa. “Never doubt that a small, thoughtful group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever will.”

Bettie Johnston accepted Johnston’s award. Johnston’s sister-in-law said that Richard, who died in 1996, would have been proud about being a Wall of Fame selection, and noted that Richard participated in a wide range of activities at Tracy High School.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Engineering and serving in the U.S. Navy, Johnston had a distinguished career as an architect. Some of the projects he helped design were the Wold-Chamberlain Airport (now Minneapolis-International Airport), oil facilities in the Middle East, facilities for the U.S. space program at Cape Kennedy, the Strategic Air Command, Vandenburg Air Force Base, and the Honolulu International Center.

Zwach was described by Marlette as someone “who has been a wonderful wife and mother to her family” and had been a role model of community service for others.

“Success in life is finding the work you love to do, being a friend, and giving of your time and talent,” she told the crowd. Zwach was the first woman to serve on the Milroy School board, and has been active in the American Legion Auxiliary, St. Michael’s Church, National Farmers’ Organization, Westline Extension, and Milroy Senior Citizens. The wife of the late Robert Zwach and mother of six children, Zwach said that her education at Tracy High School “gave me the skills to begin working immediately after school.” In the future, Zwach said that she’d like to see “more opportunities for students to stay or return” to the area.

Carey enlisted in the Air Force following high school. During World War II, he flew 39 missions over enemy Territory in B-17 and B-25 airplanes. After earning a college degree in 1950, Carey moved to Alaska, where he became a pioneer in the state’s manufactured housing industry. Civic involvement has included the Alaska State Patrol Board, Alaska Manufactured Housing Association, Rotary, and University of Alaska athletic booster clubs,

He and his wife, Natalie, raised eight children.

Carey, in accepting the award, advised people to “respect and stay close to your family” and to “choose friends wisely.”

Natalie Carey added, “This is a terrific community and Tom is so proud of the years he spent here.”



Helping Hands Award

The Tracy Education Association’s “Helping Hands” award was presented to Connie Lien, a high school paraprofessional; and Lisa Dieter, Tracy Elementary School secretary.

Fourth grade teacher Annie Syverson described Dieter as “someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty every day” and who “sets the tone for our school in her caring way.” Dieter, she said, is “upbeat and courteous to all” and gives a positive first impression to people visiting the school.

Bob Ladehoff, high school social studies teacher, said Lien is a “hard worker who never expects a pat on the back.”


School Support Award.

The Fine Arts Council of Tracy was honored with District 417’s School Support Award. Marge Robinson, arts council president, accepted the award on the behalf of the organization.

Dan Zimansky, school board chairman, thanked the arts council for buying equipment for the school, and helping stage school arts activities.

Robinson said that she is continually amazed at the amount of talent in the community. “We have an exceptional student body. Hopefully we can continue to do things in the arts.” The retired elementary teacher said that she was “proud of our school system”


Service Pins

District 417 employees honored with service pins were: 10 years-Pam Anderson, Gayle Brekken; 20 years-Ade Miller; 30 years-Nan and Bob Ladehoff.

Recently retired teachers who were honored with “Apple” awards from the district were John Coulter, Jesse James, Eileen Schimming Verla Gail Stoffel, Gail Myre, David Sogge, and Russ Roots.


Fischer, Ladehoff honored as teachers-of-year


Connie Fischer and Robert Ladehoff received standing ovations as they received District 417’s coveted “teacher of the year” awards.

“Teaching has been my life,” said Fischer, as she accepted her award.

“This means a lot. Thank you,” said Ladehoff.

Ladehoff, a high school social studies teacher, came to Tracy in 1976. Fischer, a fourth grade teacher, has been a Tracy educator since 1969.

Ladehoff is a 1969 graduate of Windom High School where he was “athlete of the year.” After earning a teaching degree from Bemidji State University, he taught at Arkansaw, Wisconsin and Melrose.

Student council president Celia Brockway introduced Ladehoff’s as someone “who wants students to succeed in life” and “makes sure you understand the history of our community, country, and world.”

The social studies mentor, she said, “reaches out to students who may be shy, but once he is done talking with them they have a smile on their face. He’s a happy teacher with an optimistic look on life.”

Brockway said that Ladehoff is known for sayings like ‘Let’s shake-n-bake folks’ and for wearing a different tie every day of the school year.

Ladehoff is a driver’s training instructor, and the B-squad basketball coach. During the 1986-87 school year, Ladehoff was the head coach of the last Panther boys’ basketball team to qualify for a state tournament. He and his wife, Nan, who is also a District 417 teacher, have three children: Leah, Alyssa, and Ross.

Kelli Soupir, Tracy Elementary School student council president, said that Fischer was a role model whose influence extends far beyond the classroom.

“Our Teacher of the Year has a love for history and social studies, can still do a mean cartwheel if called upon to do so, and isn’t afraid to take down a tree in her yard if it needs removal. Over the past seven years (she) has collected over seven million pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls. If (she) could share one thing with her students it would be: ‘to constantly read to be successful.’”

A South Dakota native, Fischer was valedictorian of her high school class and earned a teaching degree at Northern State University. Her mother, Alice, was also a Tracy Elementary School teacher.

Jesse James, the retired English teacher who served as banquet emcee, said both honorees exemplified the emotional involvement that good teachers develop with their students.


Tracy Food-n-Fuel closes

The once-bustling Food-n-Fuel convenience store remains closed, its lights dark, its pumps turned off, and its shelves empty.

The Hwy. 14 business had its final day of operations on Tuesday, Nov. 14. No annoucement has been made by Food-n-Fuel’s out-of-town owners as to future plans for the property.

Tracy Community Development Robert Gervais said that he has not been asked for assistance in marketing the property. However, he said he has fielded inquiries about the station from people in the community, who expressed an interest in the business site.

The Hwy. 14 & Seventh St. location has had a gas station since 1952 when Byron Sweely built a station and leased it to Standard Oil. H.L. “Pinky” Nydell operated Standard Oil Service for 30 years until selling the business to Clete Schons. In 1984, the property was sold to a Worthington man, Steve Anderson, who remodeled the facility into a convenience store called Steve’s Gas & Goods. Food-n-Fuel acquired the property in the late 1980s or early 1990s and remodeled and expanded the store.


Highway gates, flashing signs to announce highway closings


The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has a new way to announce the closing of highways in severe winter weather. The department recently installed gates and flashing signs on a number rural highways in Southwest Minnesota.

The highway department’s District 8 has eight gates and nine flashing signs near the exit points of area communities in Willmar, Clara City, Montevideo, Madison, Granite Falls, Olivia, Redwood Falls, Fairfax, Marshall, Tracy, Pipestone, and Slayton (see map).

Other NIRCO sites are located in District 7, Mankato; District 4, Detroit Lakes; District 3, Baxter; and District 2, Bemidji.

“Mn/DOT’s goal is to maintain the highway system during snow and ice events and there are times when weather conditions make this impossible due to extreme snowfall and loss of visibility,” explained Dave Solsrud, operations engineer for District 8, Willmar. “When our forces are unable to keep the highways open, roadways must be closed for the safety of motorists and our employees. This system is another tool for Mn/DOT to use to alert the traveling public of unsafe driving conditions.”

The decision to close a highway will be a combined decision among Mn/DOT personnel with input from local law enforcement, and the Department of Public Safety. Mn/DOT will make an every effort to give as much advanced warning as possible when the devices will be activated.

When motorists encounter a flashing sign or closed gate, they are to take the signal as evidence that road ahead is not safe for travel and they must turn around. If motorists ignore the gates and the flashing signs, a fine may be imposed by the MN State Patrol.

Mn/DOT conducted extensive research prior to the implementation of the Non-Interstate Road Closure program (NIRCO) to determine the effectiveness of a closure system. Some of the benefits from this system include:

• Gates/ signals provide a clear and indisputable notice that the road is closed

• Reduced accidents and stranded vehicles

• Reduction in delays for motorists due to the reduction in stranded or stuck vehicles once the storm is over.

• Time savings once the storm is over due to the snowplows ability to clear the roadways without having to work around stranded or stuck vehicles

• Road closure system is well-coordinated and provides documentation for delays

“People who remember the winters of 1996-97 and 2000-01 can appreciate the seriousness of having to close roads due to extremely dangerous driving conditions,” explains Solsrud


For updated statewide traffic, weather, and travel information, visit