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Schools rewarded for performance

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Schools rewarded for performance
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI – Three area schools have been deemed top-performing schools by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Schoolcraft Learning Community, Solway Elementary and TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School have each been named a “reward school” based on a new system of school accountability.


This designation puts them in the top 15 percent of schools throughout the state.

“(We’re) very happy,” said Dan McKeon, the executive director of TrekNorth. “We’ve always had strong reading results and for the last two years, we’ve been working hard to get our math results to be comparable to our reading results.”

TrekNorth math scores for seventh- and eighth-graders have doubled each of the last two years and math scores and have actually now eclipsed the schools’ reading scores.

“We’re excited to be having strong performance,” McKeon said.

The state released today its 2012 accountability results based on 2011-2012 data. Only Title 1 schools – or those that receive federal funding based on their level of poverty – are examined by the state, meeting a federal requirement. For instance, Bemidji High School was not rated because it is not a Title 1 school.

Minnesota received a waiver earlier this year allowing it to opt out of the federal No Child Left Behind accountability program. The state, instead, implemented its own measurement system.

Under the new system, schools receive two scores: The multiple measurement rating (MMR) takes into account student proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. The focus rating considers the proficiency and growth of seven subgroups, such as minority students, special education students and those who receive free or reduced lunch.

Schools that score in the top 15 percent on the MMR are named reward schools.

The next 25 percent are “celebration eligible” and may apply for the recognition as a celebration school.

Local schools that were named celebration eligible include J.W. Smith Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Blackduck Elementary, Kelliher High School and Bagley Elementary.

The new system also identifies schools that need improvement.

Priority schools have the bottom 5 percent of MMR scores. Local priority schools include Ponemah Elementary, Red Lake Alternative Learning, Red Lake Middle School and Cass Lake-Bena High School.

Focus schools have the lowest 10 percent of focus rating. Cass Lake-Bena Elementary was named a focus school.

Schools labeled “continuous improvement” have the bottom 25 percent of MMR scores. Red Lake Elementary received this designation.

Priority and focus schools can shed their designations by becoming a reward school in 2013 or by scoring above the 25th percentile in 2013 and 2014.

Earlier this year, the state released its first set of MMR data, then naming Schoolcraft, TrekNorth and Kelliher as reward schools based on 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 data.

Schoolcraft and TrekNorth have now repeated as reward schools.

“Quite honestly, based on the test scores that came back this spring, I was not surprised (to again have Schoolcraft named a reward school) because they were actually better than the scores that they used from the first measurement,” said Scott Anderson, the director of Schoolcraft.

Spokespeople for Solway Elementary and the Bemidji School District could not immediately be reached for comment as Wednesday was a staff-development day for the district.

School administrators are still adjusting to the new system, but Anderson said it is nice that it takes other factors into consideration other than just test scores.

“The old standard just measured whether you passed or don’t pass,” he said. “This way they take into consideration that I might not have passed but I made huge growth and they gave credit for that.”

McKeon said it is especially nice for schools like TrekNorth, which sees students for the first time as seventh-graders.

Under the old system, an incoming seventh-grader might be at a fourth-grade level in math. After testing, TrekNorth would be penalized because that student wasn’t meeting his grade-level expectations.

The new system, though, is able to take into account just how far that student comes during that one school year.

“Growth is really important,” McKeon said. “I wouldn’t expect a teacher in seventh grade to have that student get to a seventh-grade level in one year, but I would expect substantial amount of growth in that year.”

At Schoolcraft, Anderson said, staff members discussed briefly its reward school designation during a staff meeting Wednesday, but then turned their focus to moving the school back into its regular school-year location at Concordia Language Villages.

“It was a 10-second pat on the back, but now it’s time to get ready for a new school year, new challenges,” Anderson said.

Bethany Wesley
(218) 333-9200 x337