FAIRMONT - State results released today show that area schools include one of the best performing in the state ... and a few that can improve.
Despite earning a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Minnesota is required to release accountability data in lieu of the dreaded Adequate Yearly Progress system. The new system is called MMR - Multiple Measurement Rating - and it categorizes schools based on a combination of growth, achievement gap reduction, graduation rates and proficiency.
Winnebago Elementary School earned the highest rating - a reward school. Blue Earth Area Elementary, in the same district, earned the second-lowest rating- continuous improvement.
Fairmont Elementary and Truman Elementary also earned the continuous improvement label.
The MMR categorizes schools based on their relation to each other - the lowest 5 percent are called priority schools, the next 10 percent are called continuous improvement schools.
The continuous improvement designation is new, and is reserved for schools in the lowest 25 percent that are not priority schools.
Jim Davison, principal of Fairmont Elementary, said he was not terribly surprised at the news. He was aware of a significant drop in one section of reading scores last year that hurt the school in the ratings. Last year's sixth-graders dropped 15 percent in the reading proficiency between their fifth- and sixth-grade years. While the district is still analyzing the data, Davison feels sure those results led to the continuous improvement label.
"We did not have a precipitous drop in any other grade level," he said.
School staff began working on changes to the curriculum in June when they learned of the problem.
"Last year, we focused on math," Davison said, "and our math numbers are up across the board. ... This year we are going to do the same for reading."
In addition to identifying the reason for their rating level, continuous improvement schools are required to write and implement a turnaround plan and set aside 20 percent of their Title 1 funding to support their efforts.
On the other end of the spectrum, the top 15 percent of schools are labeled reward schools, with the next 25 percent considered celebration eligible.
Under the previous system, AYP designations - which declared whether a school made enough progress toward the goal of every student being named proficient - were based on the results of one test.
Under the new system, schools earn a fresh designation each year.
Statewide, schools are showing growth in math performance. Special education is making progress in closing reading gaps.
With this year's data, schools have three years of data to compare.
"The benefits of the new Multiple Measurement Rating system is the more precise information it gives us and local schools about how all students are doing and where improvement efforts should be focused," said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius. "With today's ratings, schools now have three years of growth data to look at, analyze and utilize as they strive to put in place strategies to ensure every single child learns, thrives and succeeds. This renewed focus has created an urgency and focus for our work moving forward."