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District 833 passes first 'North Star' test

South Washington County Schools seems to have scored well under a new, expanded set of accountability standards known as North Star.

Fourteen schools in the district were recognized for significant improvements. But three schools also have been flagged for failure to measure up. They will receive varying levels of assistance.

The North Star system replaces the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR), which relied heavily on standardized test scores such as the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS).

North Star still factors in these test results, but also considers English Language proficiency data, academic progress and graduation and attendance rates to evaluate schools.

“The Minnesota Department of Education has done a good job in taking into account other factors besides overall achievement,’ said Brian Boothe, Director of Professional Development and Accountability for District 833. “They’re looking at growth, they’re looking at attendance, they’re looking at a student’s progress in achieving English proficiency.”

But Boothe concedes that North Star is a complex system with a lot of moving parts.

“I think for a parent, what our community would need to know that his is both a system of how we can celebrate our success and acknowledge areas that need improvement.

In a statement, the District identified the following 14 schools that satisfied one or more North Star criteria:

• Armstrong Elementary School, Recognized for Consistent Attendance;

• Bailey Elementary School, Recognized for Math Progress and Consistent Attendance;

• Cottage Grove Elementary School, Recognized for Reading Progress and Consistent Attendance;

• Cottage Grove Middle School, Recognized for Math Progress;

• Grey Cloud Elementary School, Recognized for Consistent Attendance;

• Hillside Elementary School, Recognized for Consistent Attendance;

• Lake Middle School, Recognized for Math and Reading Progress and Consistent Attendance;

• Liberty Ridge Elementary School, Recognized for Math and Reading Progress;

• Middleton Elementary School, Recognized for Consistent Attendance;

• Newport Elementary School, Recognized for Progress to English Language Proficiency;

• Red Rock Elementary School, Recognized for Math and Reading Progress and Consistent Attendance;

• Royal Oaks Elementary School, Recognized for Consistent Attendance;

• Valley Crossing Elementary School, Recognized for Math and Reading Progress and Consistent Attendance; and

• Woodbury Middle School, Recognized for Math and Reading Progress and Consistent Attendance.

The three underperforming District 833 schools will receive one of three levels of support. Crestview Elementary School will receive state support, in the form of professional development opportunities for teachers and other staff, to improve the three-year averages of student test scores and attendance rates.

Hillside Elementary School will receive state support to improve progress toward English Language proficiency.

South Washington Alternative High School will receive comprehensive support from the state's Regional Centers of Excellence to personalize a plan to improve growth within their school.

The added support is one of the key components of North Star, which was developed by the Minnesota Department of Education after the Bush-era No Child Left Behind system was replaced with the Obama administration's Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Minnesota Department of education spent 2016 developing developed the North Star system. They submitted it to the U.S. Department of Education last year.

"We think that this is going to give schools and the public a much broader view of school performance rather than just looking at a test at a single point in time," said Josh Collins, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education.

The district continues to exceed the state average in reading and math scores in the standardized test portion of North Star.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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