Merrill High School can’t claim to be conference champions in every sport, but they can boast the best score of all their conference rivals in academics. On this fall’s state School Report Cards, Merrill High School scored higher than any of the neighboring schools in both of its athletic conferences.
MHS’s score of 77.1 put it into the “Exceeds Expectations” category. Other neighboring high schools to reach that level were D.C. Everest (74.5), Marshfield (73.9), Wausau East (73.9) and SPASH (73.2). All other high schools in the Wisconsin Valley and Great Northern conferences fell into the “Meets Expectations” category.
MHS scored very high in math, reflecting a stronger focus on math curriculum over the past several years. The MHS math achievement score was 40.5 out of 50 points, more than five points better than the state average.
“The biggest thing that helped us is that we focused on math the last five or six years,” said MHS Principal Shannon Murray. “We’ve seen math gains.”
Testing showed that 60.8% of MHS students are proficient in math, compared to the state average of 48.2%. Over the past five years, math proficiency has risen nearly 20% at MHS.
Reading scores for MHS were less impressive, however. The school’s reading achievement score of 30.2 is below the state average of 32.2. The 2013 numbers show 36.2% of MHS students are proficient readers, right at the state average of 36.4% and down from the 41.8% that MHS scored for 2012.
“As good as we do in math, we recognize that we have reading struggles,” Murray said. “I think a focus on reading will really help us in a lot of areas. If we can continue to focus on reading at Merrill High School and as a district, I think it will pay big dividends for our students.”
MAPS is currently starting a new reading program at the elementary schools, called Reading Street, which should eventually bolster high school reading scores, Murray noted.
“All interventions start at the elementary level, but we won’t see the fruits of that at the high school for years. We have to fix the problems we have now,” he said.
ACT testing participation and performance is another component of the School Report Card score where Murray would like to see improvement. MHS scored 11 out of 20 points in that category, which is only slightly less than the state average of 11.4 points. At MHS, about 75% of students plan to go on to post-secondary school. What cuts down ACT participation is that about half of those go to Northcentral Technical College, which doesn’t require the ACT as an entrance exam.
Murray said the School Report Cards provide some meaningful data for schools to see what they are doing well and what can be improved.
“The report card is all data points that are important to the high school,” he said. “Those are the right measures that a school should be striving to achieve.”
While Murray is proud that MHS scores well when compared to other schools, it’s how the school compares to itself over time that matters most.
“You’d like to beat your previous year’s score,” he said. “It’s not about the report card, it’s about improving. That’s good for kids.”
Merrill Area Public Schools as a district scored 71.5 on the District Report Card, putting it in the “Meets Expectations” category. All other MAPS schools individually also met expectations.