Members of the Monona Grove School Board were nothing but impressed and awed at the 2017-18 annual report issued by the Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School for the 21st Century (MG21).

Attendance rates topped the benchmarks, graduation was perfect but for one student, scores on the state civics exam were very high, student and parent surveys showed both with highly favorable remarks about the school, and staff continues to improve the learning experience for all students.

“Your report is always the epitome of continuous improvement,” board member Susan Fox said at the Dec. 19 meeting. “It seriously blows me away every year. You never settle … with doing the same thing. You’re always digging deeper.”

Rebecca Fox-Blair, teacher and executive director at the school, said one senior dropped out at the semester break last year to go to work, while the rest went on to graduate. Also, attendance topped 90 percent.

“Attendance rate is at 93 percent, which our goal is 92 percent or above,” she told the board.

The state-required civics exam demands a passing score of at least 60 percent. Fox-Blair said every senior scored above 80 percent. Each senior scored proficient or exceptional on their digital portfolio, and each scored proficient on their senior graduation speech.

Teacher Ian Lowe said the students took the HOPE survey to gauge their responsiveness to the school and its curriculum. Staff with the survey company were also impressed by the students’ answers.

“The growth that they saw from students’ attitudes about how they felt about school prior to coming to MG21 and how they felt about their academic prospects and their belongingness at MG21, that growth was as large as they had seen in the 15 years the HOPE survey has existed,” he said.

Teacher Alyssa Hartson noted that MG21 staff took the restorative justice program to another level.

“We really took huge efforts to integrate these practices into our everyday school lives,” she said. “There’s a misconception about restorative justice that it is something that happens when there is a conflict and that is sort of the only way that restorative justice is used. But we engage in restorative practices with community building in the form of support circles … and we also integrate it into our community building with advisory meetings, as well as bring it into the classroom.”

This year, staff is working to create the curriculum and other necessities for the start of the middle school campus at MG21, slated to begin in the fall of 2019. A $529,000 grant was received earlier this year to help with the planning costs.

“We have the largest freshman class we’ve ever had at MG21,” said Denise Peterson, MG21 board president. We’re excited about the plan for the middle campus. It’s going along really well.”

Staff at MG21 are working with others at Glacial Drumlin School and Winnequah School, as well as meeting with officials at a school in Wausau that served as MG21’s mentor for the grant application.

“Things are really going in a wonderful direction,” Peterson said.

Fox-Blair agreed.

“There seems to be a lot of interest,” she said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it’s a build-it-they-will-come situation. What we are in the process of creating will be really excellent and will really add an opportunity, an option in our district for the students.”

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