Schools get first look at new rating system

/ 25 May 2012 / jennifer

Kathy Velde, Granite Falls Advocate Tribune, May 25, 2012 –

Minnesota Department of Education Releases New Multiple Measurement Ratings

Granite Falls, Minn. — “The No Child Left Behind waiver has taken away the punitive labels, but we still have work to do,” said YME Superintendent of Schools Al Stoeckman. He was pushing through a pile of papers on the table in his office as he made the statement about the results of the new accountability system Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) released this week by the Minnesota Department of Education.

MMR is being used to identify progress for all schools across the state. The Minnesota State Department has implemented MMR to replace the AYP accountability system. According to a Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) news release the new ratings are the result of implementation of a new fairer, more accurate accountability system made possible through the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

The MMR, unlike AYP, is not an accountability system that pits the scores of one school against another.

“With AYP, the ethnic diversity of a district was not taken into account nor were individual students growth rates,” explained Stoeckman. In essence the new accountability system, rates a school’s current progress based on the school’s past performance, not the performance of students in other schools in the state or across the nation.

“This is another good day for Minnesota’s efforts to raise the bar and improve student achievement for every student,” stated Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius. “With this new accountability system, we’ll be able to better assess how our students are really doing. “

MMR 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.

“Looking back over the past three years, shows that YME has made growth,” stated Stoeckman. The accountability reports in 2009 showed Bert Raney Elementary proficient in 4 of 14 subgroups. In 2010 students in 7 of 13 subgroups were proficient and in 2011 students in 9 of 12 subgroups were proficient. “That’s progress,” said Stoeckman.

A software system that helps schools identify areas of growth and provides data that identifies growth makes it easier for schools to identify the specific areas in their educational programs that need improvement.

State officials hope the new focus will close Minnesota’s achievement gap – one of the nation’s highest – in half within six years.

Even though the state is providing additional data to help schools identify problem areas, the implementation of intervention programs continues to plague YME.

“Attendance is a big problem in our elementary,” shared Stoeckman. He explained that two of the subgroups that have achievement gaps are American Indian students and Hispanic students. Statistics show that this year 46 percent of the elementary American Indian students have 10 or more absences while 31 percent of the elementary Hispanic students have 10 or more absences. “It’s hard to provide intervention to close the achievement gap when the students are not in school,” sighed Stoeckman.

The new system rates the schools in several designations.

Overall Rating: Shows how well students performed on standardized tests, how much progress students made from one test to the next, progress in closing the achievement gap and for high schools, the graduation rate.

Achievement Gap Rating: A measurement showing how well each school is doing on closing the achievement gap.

Title I and SIG are the only types of schools evaluated for the MMR designation. Title I schools receive federal funding targeted to help low-income and at-risk students. SIG schools participate in the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program and are automatically designated as priority schools.

There are three designations under MMR: reward schools, focus schools and priority schools.

Reward Schools: The highest- performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. Schools designated as Reward Schools will be recognized for their good work. MDE will share any best practices taking place in their classrooms with other schools across the state.

Focus Schools: The 10 percent of Title I schools making the biggest contribution to the state’s achievement gap. Focus Schools will work with their district to develop a school improvement plan that directly addresses poor performance. Focus Schools will be identified once every three years.

Priority Schools: The 5 percent most-persistently low performing Title I schools in the state. Priority Schools will receive the full support of MDE and newly created Regional Centers of Excellence to develop a school turnaround plan based on the federal turnaround principles. Priority Schools will be identified once every three years.

“It is going to take a while to go through all the reports,” said Stoeckman. It’s not just going through the data that will take a while, it will take time to shift from thinking AYP scores to MMR. “About 70 percent of the states schools will not be identified as Reward Schools, Focus Schools or Priority Schools. The top 15 percent will be identified as Reward Schools; the bottom five percent will be identified as Priority Schools and the next 10 percent will be identified as Focus Schools. That leaves 70 percent of the schools without any designation,” explained Stoeckman.

Bert Raney Elementary has an overall rating of 30.28 percent; an achievement gap rating of 26.94 percent and has been identified as one of the 85 focus schools in the state.

Clarkfield Area Charter School has an overall rating of 90.28 percent and has been identified as one of the top 15 percent reward schools.

YME High School has an overall rating of 42.90 percent and an achievement gap rating of 29.51 percent.

“We’re sending a letter home with students to explain the new accountability system. The new accountability system has given us a new tool to identify areas where individual student improvement can be made. Our goal continues to be to provide each child a high quality education. The MMR will help us get a more accurate look at how our students are doing.”