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Editorial: Ratings put schools into categories

Published 10:45am Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Test scores are the currency of today’s education system due in part to Bush-era No Child Left Behind policies.

However, with the state’s move to the Multiple Measurements Ratings system from the controversial No Child Left Behind, schools can now measure more than just test scores. The new system allows districts to consider graduation rates, achievement gap reductions, student growth and proficiency.

Whether this new system helps or hinders success in the classroom remains to be seen.

The U.S. Department of Education approved the state’s waiver request from No Child Left Behind in February, and schools recently received their measurements ratings for 2010 and 2011. Only schools that receive Title I monies — federal funds for students in poverty — are given measurement ratings.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, schools earn points in each category.

Each school also receives a focus rating, which targets achievement gaps. Focus ratings are generated by combining the proficiency and growth of minorities, low-income and special needs students.

This rating designates a school into one of five categories: reward, celebration eligible, continuous improvement, focus or priority. Schools in the last three categories are required to create improvement plans and use 20 percent of their Title I monies to implement the plans.

Though hundreds of schools are no longer failing under No Child Left Behind, the new system is still hard to digest.

With the release of the measurement ratings, 213 schools are subpar. Sure, it’s progress from the more than 1,000 schools that were labeled as failing under No Child Left Behind, but the new system appears to understate how far these schools still have to go.

Like any change, the haze surrounding the Multiple Measurements Ratings may take time to burn off.

It’s hard to decipher whether schools in the top categories will make it a priority to continue aiding underachieving students — or challenge the overachievers. It seems easier for reward- or celebration-eligible schools to allow poverty-stricken students to fall to the wayside, if they are not required to have an improvement plan.

Furthermore, the focus ratings of the five categories may be futile. It seems ineffective to compare Talahi Community School with Sartell’s Pine Meadow Elementary — two schools with very different demographics.

The new system is a step. It has yet to be seen if it is one in the right direction.

— St. Cloud Times, Sept. 16