Collins-Maxwell school board members were treated to some good news about student achievement at their most recent board meeting, held last week.

According to Katie Claeys, director of teaching and learning for the district, Collins-Maxwell has seen growth with student achievement in all of its assessments this year.

She cited MAP (Measure of Academic Progress), FAST (Formative Assessment System for Teachers) and Iowa Assessments as the three reports she used to collect information. “The great news is, we are seeing it (academic growth) consistently across all three assessments,” Claeys said.

Dr. Tom Lane, who came into the Collins-Maxwell district last year to serve as interim superintendent, and who has continued to serve the district this school year as an advisor on the future of athletics, was present at the meeting to take in the good news with the board.

“I wanted to be there for several reasons,” Lane said when asked about it after the meeting. “First, I know full well how much work needed to be done to shore up student achievement. Last spring, we spent a lot of time making sure we understood what our information was telling us, determined a course forward and then made sure the right leadership team was in place.”

Lane said Collins-Maxwell needed to demonstrate that children were being well-served academically. “What your patrons want to know is … are my kids getting educated as well as my neighbors, 15 miles away?”

What Claeys was presenting, Lane said, shows that huge strides have been made in just this first year of moving forward. “It is important to celebrate successes,” he said.

Lane also wanted to come to last week’s meeting to acknowledge the Collins-Maxwell board members he worked with during Board Appreciation Month. “They’ve led a significant change in their communities and school district,” Lane said about the board, noting that all of them have given service and leadership for the Collins-Maxwell Schools.

When it comes to the test scores, Lane said what impressed him most is the growth in reading. “That was a very heavy lift,” he said. The Collins-Maxwell District introduced new reading curriculum at the elementary this year. Next it plans to address math in the same way.

“It’s impossible to ‘fix’ everything at once,” Lane said, “so you need to pick a focus and build from there. Collins-Maxwell is doing that.”

Last year, Lane said, he reported very weak data when he showed how Collins-Maxwell’s scores compared to other school districts from the Heartland AEA. “That’s no longer the case,” he said, but he added, “the job is never done.”

Board members expressed that they were pleased with the data being presented to them about testing.

Claeys said, “We are proud of all the hard work our teachers are putting in to help each and every student grow here at Collins-Maxwell. I am ecstatic. It’s always rewarding to observe teachers seeing the fruits of all their labors.”

Lane noted that the struggles Collins-Maxwell has faced are no different than those being faced by a number of small districts all over the state, as they look for ways to stay viable as long as possible.

“A district must first be viable academically. Finances come next,” he said. “Leadership is in place now that is allowing Collins-Maxwell to prosper. It will continue to be a battle, but good leadership, committed teachers and supportive communities will give the district a chance… Student achievement and preparing graduates to lead successful, productive lives has to be the top priority.”