Tom Meyer

By TOM MEYER

Superintendent Bellevue School District

While the Bellevue Herald-Leader shared information on ACT scores in the area in last week’s paper, highlighting the very good scores of Bellevue Marquette in comparison to other schools, they forgot to include a few key details in regard to the district which I represent - The Bellevue Community School District as Superintendent of Schools.

First, as I mentioned earlier the scores at Bellevue Marquette for this group of students who took the ACT were very good. Congratulations to them and their students. It is great to see student learning and achievements emphasized in our community.

Second, some key information was not reported on in the article about the Bellevue CSD. Some specific details include the following:

• All students take the ACT at Bellevue High School, which is unlike a large majority of the districts across the state of Iowa. We have approximately 60+ students each year who take the test, and all of their results are included in our scores. For other districts, the percent of students who take the test is not 100%, and the state average is around 65%. The Bellevue CSD was not contacted about the philosophy of the district about having all students take the ACT, and this matters when scores are analyzed and compared.

• The Bellevue CSD determined a few years ago that we wanted each student to have a basic college entrance exam completed prior to graduation, and the ACT is a common measure which post-secondary schools across the nation utilize. This allows our students to be “thinking” about college/training and analyzing their areas of strength as they prepare for their life after graduation. We want to allow our students to “think big” and believe in their skills and capabilities beyond high school, whether that means a 4-year college, 2-year college, apprenticeship program, a professional training credential, etc.

• The district also wants to see how our curriculum and teaching is matching with the learning of students.  Ultimately, it serves as an analysis of our curriculum for all students, and what we are requiring students to learn and accomplish. Our goal is to make steady improvements in our curriculum and get ALL students up to or beyond the state average.

• The assessment also allows us to sincerely think about ALL students and is a good comparison when looking at other data measures we use (Iowa State Assessment of Student Progress, ASPIRE, FAST, etc.).  The data follows a student, and we need to monitor this and see the improvements each year and work on the weaknesses of individual or groups of students.

While the ACT scores are important to note, like any test score they must be viewed in connection with other measures of student success and student learning. The averages listed in last week’s edition failed to note our district’s participation rate. If our district would have the state average amount of students take the assessment, our three-year averages for composite scores averaged nearly 23, along with our top 10 percent have averaged a composite of over 29 and our top 15% have averaged a score of 28. This is important to note for the transparency of information.

At our most recent school board meeting, I also shared information in regard to testing that Beers and Probst share in a book called “Disruptive Thinking” from 2017. This book discusses preparing students for life, not simply a test. An excerpt in their book shares that doing something and achieving success generally means looking beyond a short-term goal such as passing a test, to a longer-term purpose of becoming a lifelong, passionate, and curious learner.

I believe schools must focus on what motivates students to become lifelong learners who are engaged, passionate, and self-directed learners in school and in their lives outside of school.

The Bellevue CSD is striving to help kids become confident and passionate about their lives after high school with a clear purpose and goal after graduation. As William Daggett states, “The primary aim of education is not to enable students to do well in school, but to assist them to do well in their lives outside of school.”

We have an outstanding community with two high-quality school systems that care about students and their learning, along with their lives after their education in Bellevue. I am extremely proud of the academic achievements in our community, and specifically from first-hand knowledge of the learning opportunities which are provided for the students in our school system.