Schools receive baseline rating after No Child Left Behind waiver

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Under new measurements, Albert Lea Area Schools has one school in the top 15 percent of schools in the state and no schools in the bottom 25 percent.

Sibley Elementary School was named to the top 15 percent of schools, and Superintendent Mike Funk said that he’s happy with the new baseline scores.

“I’m satisfied with our performance,” Funk said. “We’ve been working hard.”

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Scores released Tuesday reflect 2009-10 and 2010-11 tests to establish a baseline with the new way of scoring. Scores from the last school year won’t be released until late july or early August.

“I expect we’ll do even better when scores come this summer,” Funk said.

Because Minnesota was granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the Minnesota Department of Education released results of its new accountability system on Tuesday. It’s called Multiple Measurement Ratings, or MMR, and the biggest goal is to improve the disparity between students of color and in poverty and their white counterparts, according to the MDE.

The highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state, or 127, were named reward schools. The 10 percent of Title I schools doing the poorest on Minnesota’s achievement gap, 85 in all, were designated focus schools. And the bottom 5 percent of the most persistently underperforming Title I schools, 42 in all, were designated priority schools. The state will work with the priority and focus schools on plans to improve them, while holding up the reward schools as models of what works for others to emulate.

No Child Left Behind relies on one high-stakes annual standardized test of academic proficiency to determine whether a school is making adequate yearly progress. The new MMR ratings look at academic proficiency, student growth, progress in closing achievement gaps and graduation rates. Funk said he’s most looking forward to the fact that the results measure student growth.

“The focus on the achievement gap piece was something we weren’t really aware of before,” Funk said. “The way they measure growth is helpful as well — we appreciate the test not only looking at student proficiency but student growth as well.”

With one school as a reward school in the top 15 percent, Funk said all the other schools will work toward improving and possibly getting that designation in the future.

“It’s a goal of ours to really make sure we’re meeting the needs of all our learners,” Funk said. “The higher our scores the more we’re demonstrating meeting that need.”

Nearly half of Minnesota’s 2,255 schools failed to meet the No Child Left Behind benchmarks in 2010. Many of them faced potential penalties that included forced staffing changes and expensive requirements to provide free after-school tutoring or busing to better schools.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the new system is a fairer and more accurate way to hold schools accountable.

“Rather than relying on a failed system that doled out punitive labels and didn’t tell the whole story about schools, today we’re recognizing our highest-performing schools and making a commitment to stand behind those schools most in need,” Cassellius said in a statement.


Albert Lea Multiple Measurements Ratings

School                                    Initial MMR

Halverson Elementary           51 percent

Hawthorne Elementary         51 percent

Lakeview Elementary            50 percent

Sibley Elementary                   74 percent

Albert Lea High                       58 percent

Southwest Middle                   28 percent

— These initial ratings will be compared to 2011-12 test results that come out later this summer.