New school ratings hold promise, south metro educators say

/ 29 May 2012 / jennifer

William C. Crum, Star Tribune, May 29, 2012 –

South-of-the-river educators say Minnesota’s new system of rating public schools will help teachers tailor their instruction to the needs of their students.

Teacher Angela Nguyen visited with two of her buddies, Juliana Salisbury and Quincy Aaron, who are both second-graders at Farmington Elementary School. The school’s “staff buddies” system is aimed at giving students one more positive relationship with an adult. Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

How south metro schools rank

MMR, or Multiple Measurement Rating, has four components: test scores, growth in academic achievement, change in achievement gap between whites and minorities and, for high schools, graduation rates. Scores are expressed as a percentage.

High Schools
School of Environmental Studies, Apple Valley 98.48%
Eagan Senior High 92.77%
Rosemount Senior High 91.13%
Lakeville South 86.80%
Lakeville North 86.59%
Eastview Senior High, Apple Valley 86.31%
Prior Lake 79.90%
Apple Valley Senior High 78.89%
Hastings 75.67%
Simley, Inver Grove Heights 73.70%
Shakopee Senior High 69.04%
New Prague Senior High 66.07%
Montgomery-Lonsdale Secondary 61.38%
Burnsville Senior High 61.31%
South St. Paul Secondary 61.19%
Henry Sibley Senior High, Mendota Heights 59.37%
Farmington 59.32%
Belle Plaine Senior High 53.76%
Jordan Secondary 37.92%

Top 5 middle schools
New Prague 90.10%
Century, Lakeville 89.70%
Hidden Oaks, Prior Lake 89.33%
Kenwood Trail, Lakeville 81.51%
Twin Oaks, Prior Lake 77.74%

Bottom 5 middle schools
Heritage, West St. Paul 36.41%
Belle Plaine Junior High 31.07%
Eagle Ridge Junior High, Savage 25.19%
Valley, Apple Valley 21.80%
Shakopee Junior High 8.79%

Top 5 elementaries
Atheneum, Inver Grove Heights 99.76%
Lake Marion, Lakeville 90.19%
Deerwood, Eagan 86.46%
WestWood, Prior Lake 86.13%
Pine Bend, Inver Grove Heights 84.89%

Bottom 5 elementaries
Lincoln Center, South St. Paul 37.09%
Kaposia Education Center, South St. Paul 28.18%
Kennedy, Hastings 25.79%
Riverview, Farmington 24.12%
Garlough, West St. Paul 15.12%

FR, or Focus Rating, has two components: test scores and growth in academic achievement by minority students and those receiving special services, including those from poor families and those who receive special education services. It measures progress in closing the achievement gap. Scores are expressed as a percentage.

High Schools
School of Environ. Studies, Apple Valley 99.11%
Eagan Senior High, 90.14%
Lakeville North 84.59%
Rosemount Senior High 84.59%
Lakeville South 81.88%
Eastview Senior High, Apple Valley 79.53%
Prior Lake 79.00%
Apple Valley Senior High 70.52%
Hastings 63.96%
South St. Paul Secondary 62.81%
Burnsville Senior High 62.18%
Montgomery-Lonsdale Secondary 60.00%
Simley Senior High 56.67%
Shakopee Senior High 56.26%
New Prague Senior High 53.95%
Henry Sibley Senior High 53.94%
Belle Plaine Senior High 52.36%
Farmington 41.18%
Jordan Secondary 41.02%

Top 5 middle schools
Century, Lakeville 91.51%
Hidden Oaks, Prior Lake 89.07%
New Prague 86.16%
Robert Boeckman, Farmington 84.23%
Dakota Hills, Eagan 78.17%

Bottom 5 middle schools
Eagle Ridge Junior High, Savage 40.60%
Metcalf Junior High, Burnsville 34.99%
Valley, Apple Valley 27.94%
Shakopee Junior High 15.64%
Nicollet Junior High, Burnsville 13.86%

Top 5 elementaries
Lake Marion, Lakeville 94.93%
Lakeview, Lakeville 88.14%
Cherry View, Lakeville 86.56%
Glendale, Savage 85.85%
Shannon Park, Rosemount 85.79%

Bottom 5 elementaries
Riverview, Farmington 46.12%
Salem Hills, Inver Grove Heights 46.08%
Westview, Apple Valley 41.57%
Five Hawks, Prior Lake 40.80%
Garlough, West St. Paul 17.62%

(Star Tribune)

Signs of change at Farmington Elementary School are stuck to lockers.

Colorful Post-It notes from “staff buddies” carry friendly reminders and encouragement, helping children make choices that lead to success in school.

The notes are part of an effort to improve instruction and performance that is finding traction across the south metro as the state begins a new era of rating and ranking public schools.

Educators say the new system, known as MMR, or Multiple Measurement Rating, gives teachers greater ability to tailor instruction to the needs of their students.

“Our belief is there’s always room for improvement,” said Jason Molesky, assessment and accountability coordinator in Lakeville public schools. “For us the MMR is really just a starting point to dig … a little bit deeper and better understand how our students are performing.”

Under a waiver to No Child Left Behind, the federal focus on test scores is out. Under that system, nearly half of Minnesota’s schools were labeled as failures.

Instead, the state is assessing schools by supplementing test scores with information on achievement gains, progress in closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities, and high school graduation rates.

The first ratings under the new system were released last week.

Seven south-of-the-river schools, including Farmington Elementary, were recognized as “Reward” schools, ranking in the top 15 percent statewide among schools with high poverty rates.

Strategies for success

Sally Soliday, principal since 1997 at Echo Park Elementary, also a Reward school, said there’s a “clear focus on what we expect students to know and be able to do.”

The Burnsville school, part of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district, has about 710 children in grades K through 5. Nearly half are minorities and 40.5 percent qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch.

“We’re not just teaching them and hoping that they’re learning,” Soliday said. She said teachers get time to assess test results and share strategies that produce gains: “We’re talking about the data and where the kids are at and what we have to do to push them to the next level.”

The first ratings under the state’s new system used test data from 2010 and 2011 to measure achievement.

Broadening measures of school success beyond test scores helps schools see how they compare, Molesky said.

“It lets us look beyond our district to other schools in the state,” he said.

Staff buddies

Ben Januschka, in his fifth year as principal at Farmington Elementary, said the deeper well of data in the new ratings will help teachers better understand how well children are learning.

Farmington Elementary has about 625 students in kindergarten through grade 5. The percentage of children qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch and movement in and out of the attendance area are on the rise. It was singled out for failing to make adequate progress under previous measures.

Staff buddies, with its colorful Post-Its, started recently and pairs students with a staff member outside their usual routine. Research shows a child needs three to four positive adult relationships to succeed, Januschka said. Staff buddies gives each child one more.

The idea: “Instill the instinct to learn; keep that excitement going and make it relevant to them,” Januschka said.

“There’s a lot of assessing going on,” he said. “It is stressful for the kids; the high-stakes tests, they do know how important those are.” But he said he would “like to think that test scores don’t drive what we’re doing.”

“The test scores don’t measure citizenship and how they get along with each other and how they’re going to do once they graduate.”

William C. Crum • 612-673-7215