BY KELLY JOHNSON
Anoka-Hennepin School District officials, students and parents have much to celebrate with the results of the most recent test results released by the Minnesota Department of Education last week.
"I think you’ll be very pleased with the results," Superintendent Dennis Carlson told school board members at their May 21 meeting, just ahead of the official release of the results of the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR).
MMR is a new ratings system for schools throughout Minnesota as a result of the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. It is designed to be a fairer, more accurate accountability system, according to a Minnesota Department of Education press release.
"This is another good day for Minnesota’s efforts to raise the bar and improve student achievement for every student," said Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius. "With this new accountability system, we’ll be able to better assess how our schools are really doing, and put in place structures and resources to support their efforts."
"Rather than relying on a failed system that doled out punitive labels and didn’t tell the whole story about schools, today we’re recognizing our high performing schools and making a commitment to stand beside those schools most in need."
The goal of the new system is to improve the disparity in academic performance between students of color and in poverty and their white count referred to as the achievement gap.
These new ratings take into account school performance in proficiency, growth, progress in closing achievement gaps and graduation rate.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, state officials hope the new focus will close Minnesota’s achievement gap – one of the nation’s highest – in half within six years.
Along with the MMR ratings, three designations were given to schools meeting certain criteria.
Reward schools are the highest performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. There were 128 schools named in this category, including three in District 11.
Those schools are Madison Elementary, Monroe Elementary and University Avenue Elementary.
"We are thrilled to have three of our Title I schools earn the highest ranking as reward schools," said Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent for elementary schools.
"To be the largest school district in Minnesota and yet not have a single school designated as a priority school (the bottom 5 percent of the rankings) and only one as a focus school (the middle 10 percent) is very positive."
"All three of our reward schools have very strong collaboration between general classroom teachers and specialty teachers for special education, English as a second language and Title services so that students work with these teachers in their regular classroom setting instead of being pulled out for services."
"These schools also have specialization, strong instructional coaching and a sharp focus on state standards."
In schools with specialization, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers specialize in teaching either English language arts and social studies or science and math.
Two of the reward schools are specialty schools in collaboration with Northwest Suburban Integration School District, Wolverton said.
These schools are racially isolated, meaning their percentage of students of color is significantly above the district average, she said.
Reward schools will be recognized for their good work, with the Minnesota Department of Education looking to share any best practices taking place in their classrooms with other schools statewide.
These reward schools will be identified annually.
The only focus school in District 11 is Evergreen Park Elementary in Brooklyn Center. This school will be required to use a share of its Title I funding to implement an improvement plan.
One of the advantages of the new system is that all Title I funds are available for use by schools in providing staff and programming for students. Under the previous system, the district had to set aside 20 percent of its Title funding to offer school choice or free tutoring to qualifying students in schools that had failed to make adequate yearly progress for two or more years. This frees up more than $1 million that can be spent on programming for students who need additional help in reading and math.
Focus schools are 10 percent of Title I schools making the biggest contribution to the state’s achievement gap. Eighty-five schools statewide were designated focus schools, including Evergreen Park.
Schools with the focus designation will work with their district to develop a school improvement plan that directly addresses poor performance either within a subgroup or in graduation rates. Focus schools will be identified every three years.
Priority schools are among the 5 percent of the most persistently low performing Title I schools in the state. Forty-two schools received this designation. None were from Anoka-Hennepin.
These priority schools will receive support from the Minnesota Department of Education and a newly rated Regional Centers of Excellence to develop a school turnaround plan based on the federal turnaround principles.
Under federal regulations, 19 of the schools identified as priority schools are currently operating under the school improvement grant program. These schools will have the opportunity to exit the priority schools list if they are no longer in the bottom 25 percent of Title I schools.
Priority schools will be identified once every three years.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the accountability system takes into account the unique challenges facing each community, providing districts with the flexibility necessary to create a turnaround plan that best addresses a school’s particular needs. Each turnaround plan will vary from school to school.
"Today marks an important step in our efforts to provide every child with access to a world-class education," Cassellius said. "This work will not be easy, but it can be done. With collaboration and commitment from everyone – parents, students, educators, communities, policy makers and MDE – we’ll continue on our path to ensure every student has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential."
School, overall rating, achievement gap rating
Adams Elementary School, 43.48 percent, 38.42 percent
Andover Elementary School, 65.35 percent, 63.58 percent
Andover High School, 80.52 percent, 72.78 percent
Anoka High School, 60.79 percent, 54.54 percent
Anoka Middle School for the Arts, 54.57 percent, 63.31 percent
Blaine High School, 55.01 percent, 49.76 percent
Champlin/Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Science, 96.96 percent, 98.55 percent
Champlin Park High School, 61.41 percent, 51.67 percent
Coon Rapids High School, 42.88 percent, 47.63 percent
Coon Rapids Middle School, 61.77 percent, 71.97 percent
Crooked Lake Elementary School, 45.60 percent, 50.04 percent
Crossroads Alternative High School, 40.37 percent, 47.87 percent
Crossroads Night, 63.17 percent
Dayton Elementary School, 56.74 percent, 54.02 percent
Eisenhower Elementary School, 51.26 percent, 56.03 percent
Evergreen Park Elementary School, 18.15 percent, 21.70 percent
Franklin Elementary School, 32.00 percent, 39.89 percent
Hamilton Elementary School, 62.22 percent, 75.15 percent
Hoover Elementary School, 51.33 percent, 67.20 percent
Jackson Middle School, 49.73 percent, 58.85 percent
Jefferson Elementary School, 68.21 percent, 77.41 percent
Johnsville Elementary School, 49.51 percent, 57.33 percent
Lincoln Elementary School, 53.87 percent, 69.48 percent
Madison Elementary School, 79.59 percent, 81.31 percent
McKinley Elementary School, 87.33 percent, 87.61 percent
Mississippi Elementary School, 34.03 percent, 60.04 percent
Monroe Elementary School, 74.15 percent, 80.41 percent
Morris Bye Elementary School, 69.30 percent, 67.89 percent
Northdale Middle School, 48.51 percent, 66.92 percent
Oak View Middle School, 55.31 percent, 63.01 percent
Oxbow Creek Elementary School, 65.30 percent, 67.30 percent
Ramsey Elementary School, 63.20 percent, 66.90 percent
Roosevelt Middle School, 64.05 percent, 75.11 percent
Rum River Elementary School, 78.21 percent, 79.79 percent
Rum River Trail Learning Center at L.O. Jacob, 53.12 percent, 63.52 percent
Sand Creek Elementary School, 63.77 percent, 70.28 percent
Secondary Technical Education (STEP), 68.77 percent, 73.02 percent
University Avenue Elementary School, 73.39 percent, 76.43 percent
Wilson Elementary School, 72.40 percent, 72.89 percent