Mandan News

Coming to different ideas

Board Room Notes
By Mike Bitz, Mandan School Superintendent

Can two sets of eyes looking at the same information come to different conclusions? This is what has happened to the Mandan School District this spring. Both the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and US News & World Report analyzed the results of the North Dakota State Assessment and reported their findings this spring. Despite looking at the same data, these two organizations came to two completely different conclusions.

US News and World Report recognized Mandan High School with a bronze ranking in their annual issue, which ranks “Best High Schools” in the United States. In fact, Mandan High School and Grand Forks Central High School were the only two Class A High Schools in North Dakota to be singled out for their better than expected performance on the state assessment.

Using the same data, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction came to a much different conclusion. Mandan High School was identified as not reaching the Adequate Yearly Progress requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act. This same message went out to hundreds of schools across North Dakota as educators come to grips with the full implementation of NCLB. The NCLB had set 2014 as the year when all students had to show proficiency on their grade level examinations. If that goal of 100% proficiency was not met, the school was labeled as failing.

Because Mandan did not meet this goal, school administrators from Mandan attended a meeting with State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler in April. We were not alone; it was a large and crowded room. There were 378 schools represented at this meeting at the Bismarck Civic Center. Over 83% of the schools in N.D. were identified as not meeting AYP this past year.

So whose analysis of the N.D. State Assessment data is right? Using the criteria set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act, the N.D. Department of Public Instruction is correct in saying that Mandan High School did not make AYP because 100% of our students are not proficient at their grade level in math and reading. US News & World Report is also correct in saying that considering the demographics and socioeconomic makeup of the students at Mandan High School, our students performed better than they were expected to perform using their predictive model.

It is important to remember that when we are looking at statistics, we need to consider the criteria that are [KLB3]being used. As Mark Twain said “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

More information on the US News & World Report article and the ND Department of Public Instruction AYP Reports is available online at the following links:

Hopefully, this article has been informative to you. If you have any topics or items that you would like me to discuss in future columns, or you would like to comment on this article, please feel free to call me at the school (751-6500) or E-mail me at with your thoughts and ideas.