Public and charter school districts across Minnesota had their 2011-12 report cards made public this past Thursday when the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the most recent multiple measurement ratings (MMR) report.
The MMR is the most recent education report being provided to the public, and it is based on a program developed by MDE as part of a waiver request the state proposed that would allow it not to fall under the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
According to a press release from MDE, early analysis indicates show the state is “gaining traction” in what is the primary goal of the concept – closing the achievement gap.
An MMR report is created for every public and charter school in the state, and each school, elementary, middle and high school is ranked on a list based on how well each “measured up.”
While each school receives a ranking, only those schools which use Title I federal funding receive one of five designations under the auspices of the MMR report.
Those designations include being deemed a reward, celebration eligible, focus, continuous improvement or priority school. Those designations are based on four areas, including proficiency, growth, closing the achievement gap and graduation rate.
Student proficiency is based on the results of the Minnesota Com-prehensive Assess-ment (MCA) tests ad-ministered this past spring. Those results were released earlier this summer.
Both math and reading scores are taken into consideration.
Student growth is based on how individual students progress from one year to the next on the MCAs.
Closing the achievement gap is about comparing how those students in certain designation categories score in comparison to those who do not fit into any of those categories.
While one might assume the achievement gap focuses solely on ethnicity, the comparison also includes those students who could be designated as in poverty based on free and reduced lunch qualification, as well as those who are classified as in special education or as having English as their second language.
Graduation rates, which obviously are only scored in high schools are not based solely on each year’s seniors but focus on how many of each year’s freshman actually graduate after four years in high school.
According to Darcy Josephson, RASD dir-ector of teaching and learning, the graduation rate only includes those students who are part of the district from Grade 9 through their senior year.
The five categories in which a school is designated are based on a score given by MDE for each of the categories in which they would be assessed, and each category has a total of 25 points.
So, in an elementary or middle school, the three categories would have a total score out of as possible 75 points. At the high school level, the score is out of 100 points.
Page 2 of 3 - The top 15 percent of all schools in the state at each level are designated as reward schools.
According to data from MDE, Wabasso High School was designated as a reward school, as did Walnut Grove Elementary School.
The second designation is a new category introduced when the 2012 MMR results were reported.
That category, known as celebration eligible, includes the next 25 percent of schools, with those who are given this designation having the opportunity to apply to be a celebration school.
Several schools in the area, including Reede Gray Elemen-tary, Cedar Mountain Elementary, ECHO Charter, Red Rock Central Elementary and Wabasso Elemen-tary schools were all named to this list.
“We are very excited,” said Patti Machart, Cedar Mountain Elem-entary School principal. “That designation puts us in the top half of the state. Our kids have worked hard.”
Machart said the school district made a concerted effort to improve both its reading and math scores through the purchase of new curriculum and a reassessment of what it has doing to ensure its strategies were meeting the needs of the students.
A new reading curriculum was incorporated a couple of years ago, said Machart, adding the school spent time investigating what it felt was the most comprehensive curriculum as it taught all components of reading and met the needs of all learners based on their ability.
Machart said the school also stressed mastery of the basic facts in math, adding students are doing timed tests and drills to ensure they understand the basics.
Stephanie Perry, Reede Gray Elemen-tary School principal was equally excited about the designation.
“This shows us we are heading in the right direction,” said Perry. “We have a lot to celebrate. We ask a lot of our children and they are constantly stepping up and doing what we ask of them.”
Perry said what makes the report all the more sweet is knowing just two years ago under the No Child Left Behind standards the elementary school was required to do an AYP plan based on low reading scores.
That plan, said Perry, is making a difference, and she attributes that to the commitment of the staff to making sure the plan was one that would make a difference.
She said there was even a member of the math team who was part of the planning committee.
“We researched the data and determined what we needed to do,” said Perry, “and then we followed up and made sure they were getting it.”
Neither Machart nor Perry knew much about the application process to be designated as a celebration school, and part of the reason for that is due to the fact that the state has not yet determined what that process is going to involved.
Page 3 of 3 - Both schools do plan to apply, though.
While there are certainly reasons to celebrate, there are also some schools who are seeing areas of concern, and are considering those areas where they can make im-provement as the school moves forward.
In the Redwood Area School District one area Rick Ellingworth raised as a concern was in high school math where the majority of the students were not deemed proficient on the MCA test.
“We have some focus areas which are going to be getting a lot of attention,” said Ell-ingworth.
However, he said as a whole the school district is feeling good about the report.
“Overall we are trending up in math, reading and writing,” said Ellingworth.
The ninth grade writing results showed 93 percent of students were proficient, which Ellingworth said are some of the best scores the school district has seen in a number of years.
He also said the 10th grade reading scores were at 80 percent proficient – also one of the best results the district has seen recently.
Josephson said the local district is also going to look at its data to further investigate graduation rates and the school as a whole is going to be placing added focus in student attendance this year.
Ellingworth stressed the fact that he and other school staff are still learning about all of the inner workings of the MMR report.
Another school that is still learning about the new concept is Cedar Mountain, and one thing it learned recently is an area of concern for the school.
According to the rules of the MMR report, any school district that graduates less than 40 students does not receive any points for graduation rate.
Bob Tews, Cedar Mountain School Dis-trict said he and Jer-emy Schultz, Grades 6-12 principal at Cedar Mountain, were feeling pretty good about their scores until it found out about that rule.
“We take the scores we receive very seriously,” said Tews, adding it is always about doing what is best for students.
“Today’s data shows that we’re starting to bend the curve in the right direction,” said Brenda Cassellius, MDE commissioner in a news release issues this past Thursday. “Minnesota’s achievement gaps are still unacceptably large, but I believe the new accountability measures we’ve put in place, along with our new focus on closing gaps and improving outcomes for every student, will continue to accelerate the gains we see today.”