Lake County-area schools hit mark in new state ratingsThe Minnesota Department of Education released new ratings this week to gauge student achievement in an attempt to accurately portray school performance – something the No Child Left Behind law failed to do, officials said.
By: News-Chronicle staff, Lake County News-Chronicle
The Minnesota Department of Education released new ratings this week to gauge student achievement in an attempt to accurately portray school performance – something the No Child Left Behind law failed to do, officials said.
The elementary school in Silver Bay got a silver star for its rating while the high schools in Silver Bay and Two Harbors and Minnehaha Elementary in Two Harbors held their own with ratings near the 60-percent mark.
The state applied for and was granted a waiver from federal mandates such as having 100 percent of students proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The ratings are a result of a new accountability system, and one of the main goals is to narrow the disparity, or achievement gap, between test scores and graduation rates of white students and students of color.
The new system removes the “failing” labels that nearly half of the state’s schools wore last year. Instead, the state will target a smaller group of lowest-performing “priority” schools where immediate change will be expected.
“This is the first time we really had an opportunity not to use a stick but a carrot,” said Sam Kramer, who works with federal programs for the state Education Department. “Previously you did or didn’t make AYP (adequate yearly progress); no one celebrated you. Now we have reward schools.”
Schools that receive federal Title I funding – with large proportions of low-income students – are the only schools that can receive a designation under the new system. Those designations are:
The new system takes into account school performance in three or four categories: proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction and, in the case of high schools, graduation rate. Another measure – the focus rating – gauges proficiency and growth of minority students and students receiving special services, such as English-language learners, special education students and those receiving free or reduced-price lunch.
“We think it’s a better measurement,” Kramer said. “AYP was a black-and-white way of looking at accountability. In the real world, there’s a lot more complexity within schools: a thousand shades of grey.”
Schools that receive a priority designation start a turnaround process. The school will work with its district and the state to come up with a plan set to begin next school year “that will seriously approach change within the school,” Kramer said. “This isn’t tinkering around the edges. It’s changing the way the school operates.”
That could mean evaluating teachers and principals, developing “professional learning communities” and looking at how time is spent at a school. On the extreme end, it could mean replacing teachers and principals, Kramer said.
“It’s going to be different at all 42 schools,” he said.
Focus schools will do much of the same, but the plan will be centered on the subgroups that aren’t performing well and could include things such as curriculum changes. As for reward schools, they will be studied to see what they are doing well and what can be shared with other schools.
“And they get to have a big celebration,” Kramer said. “Talking about who is doing well is meaningful in and of itself.”
To be removed from the priority or focus schools list, schools must stay out of the bottom 25 percent for two straight years. Priority and focus schools will be named every three years and reward schools will be named annually.