School results released as state looks more closely at individual student achievementA new assessment tool is recognizing South Washington County Schools and other districts across Minnesota for individual student achievement over time, instead of just test score results.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
A new assessment tool is recognizing South Washington County Schools and other districts across Minnesota for individual student achievement over time, instead of just test score results.
The assessment is the result of a state waiver from the school grading mechanism used in the federal No Child Left Behind law. Critics of the federal policy have grumbled for 10 years that schools do not get credit for how much growth a student makes in a year and are judged solely on test scores. The federal law is also intentionally designed so school districts can’t hide low-achievers by reporting a total average score for all students. If even one of seven student subgroups failed tests, an entire school was deemed to have not achieved adequate yearly progress.
The Minnesota Department of Education unveiled the new system last week that addresses the student growth concern. The Multiple Measurement Rating considers four areas including student growth, proficiency scores (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment state tests), efforts at closing the achievement gap between white students and minority students and graduation rates.
There are 25 possible points for each category with a total of 75 points available to elementary schools and 100 for high schools because elementary schools don’t have graduation rates.
The District 833 MMR results show that more diverse schools tend to rate lower because they have more subgroup students, a conclusion interim assessment director Jim Angermeyer relayed to the School Board at the August workshop.
The district’s top schools include Nuevas Fronteras (96 percent), and Liberty Ridge and Bailey elementary schools (each at 92 percent). Middle school scores ranged from 63 to 90 percent. Woodbury High School scored 92 percent, East Ridge 83 percent and Park 66 percent.
In addition to the MMR rating, each school also has a “focus rating,” a combined score of how student subgroups are achieving and how much growth they’ve made in a year.
Crestview and Newport elementary schools, which have low MMR ratings, need to have “turn-around plans” for how they intend to raise test scores, achieve growth and close the achievement gap because they are Title I schools that receive federal money for high numbers of students in poverty.
Superintendent Keith Jacobus and Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said last week that they had visited with teachers and principals at Crestview and Newport.
Their MMR scores dropped because one or more of the subgroups didn’t pass state tests, Bernhardson said.
Plans already in place
All Title I schools, including Pullman Elementary School, have improvement plans already in place with achievement as a goal. Increasing the rate of student growth, which is tied to proficiency, will be part of updated plans that will be posted on the district’s website by Nov. 1, according to Bernhardson.
Crestview and Newport have showed “some good growth” in subgroups. “We’ve seen improvements,” Jacobus said.
There are also other ways to measure student progress such as MAP (measure of academic progress) computer tests that students take in the fall and spring, he said.
Last spring, in anticipation that Crestview students might not do well on state tests, the school came up with a plan for this fall, according to Bernhardson.
He and Jacobus said they like the new rating system.
“It shows what we need to do,” Bernhardson said. “The information is helping us. The schools’ leadership team of teachers and principals is in place.”
Subgroups are titled Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, children who receive free or reduced-price lunches (a federal measure of poverty), students whose first language is not English and special education students.
“Growth” will be measured against the average statewide score of each corresponding group.
Pullman Elementary is also a Title I school, but last year it was taken off the list of schools “not achieving adequate yearly progress” because all of its students passed tests.
With efforts to raise test scores continuing, Pullman’s MMR rating went from 42 last year to 66 this year, making the school eligible for the Department of Education’s “celebration” status along with 211 other schools around the state.
Pullman has to apply for official designation, which is only given to 10 percent of the qualifying schools, according to Ed Ross, principal in his sixth year at the school.
Teachers met last Thursday and were excited by the MMR rating achieved by Pullman students.
“We’re closing the achievement gap,” Ross said in an interview.
Ross said the new rating puts the emphasis on all students making a year’s worth of growth.
Under No Child Left Behind, proficient kids and those who are highly proficient passed tests but how much growth they achieved wasn’t considered.
“That counts now,” Ross said. “They have to hit their growth targets.”
MMR also changes a school’s perspective. To raise test scores in the past, schools looked to improve kids who “were on the bubble” and close to passing.
“All kids have to grow now,” he said.
“We’re in the spotlight now, but we have to keep making a steady climb,” Ross continued. “We’re meeting the kids where they are and not making excuses.”
In granting the waiver from No Child Left Behind, federal officials insisted that Minnesota’s new system be as rigorous and that the persistent achievement gap not be overlooked. Minnesota is among the states with the highest gap, according to the Department of Education, which has said schools must close the achievement gap by half over the next six years.
Information about the new MMR rating system, including a glossary of terms, is on the District 833 website at sowashco.k12.mn.us.
Here is how District 833 schools fared on the Minnesota Department of Education’s new Multiple Measurement Rating system. The MMR is an assessment of a school’s student achievement that replaces the former Adequate Yearly Progress measurement. The number for each school is the percentage out of 75 points available for elementary schools and 100 percent for high schools.
School MMR score
Armstrong Elementary 89.70%
Bailey Elementary 91.66%
Cottage Grove Elem. 47.80%
Crestview Elementary 16.63%
Grey Cloud Elementary 82.82%
Hillside Elementary 79.44%
Liberty Ridge Elementary 91.66%
Middleton Elementary 71.89%
Newport Elementary 16.02%
Nuevas Fronteras 96.61%
Pine Hill Elementary 32.33%
Pullman Elementary 66.96%
Red Rock Elementary 90.64%
Royal Oaks Elementary 69.86%
Woodbury Elementary 69.67%
Cottage Grove Middle 88.51%
Lake Middle School 90.32%
Oltman Middle School 79.95%
Woodbury Middle School 63.44%
East Ridge High School 83.56%
Park High School 65.69%
Woodbury High School 92.31%
Alt. Learning Center 50.25%
Source: Minnesota Department of Education