ROSEVILLE – Seventeen schools previously identified as Priority schools and 10 schools previously designated as Focus schools will no longer carry that status due to their substantial progress in raising achievement for all students and reducing achievement gaps. In addition, 10 of these schools are now eligible to apply for Celebration recognition, and three will be honored as Reward schools. As the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the 2013 Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR), Minnesota’s Education Commissioner pointed to the data as evidence the state is beginning to bend the curve in closing its achievement disparities.
“Today’s release is about the hard work taking place every single day in our schools to ensure the success of each child,” Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “It is because of the inspiring commitment, dedication and collaboration of teachers, support staff and school leaders that we are seeing improvements in our Priority and Focus schools.”
Commissioner Cassellius also acknowledged that some schools saw a lower MMR than the previous year, which corresponds with 2013 MCA results.
“It is no surprise to see that there are schools who received a lower MMR than in previous years. As we saw with the assessment results released last month, anytime a new test based on new standards is given, we can expect to see some variations,” Commissioner Cassellius said.
In looking at the growth for those schools exiting the Priority and Focus status, Commissioner Cassellius highlighted their success as important progress toward reaching the state’s goal of closing achievement gaps in half by 2017. Priority and Focus schools throughout Minnesota serve racially and ethnically diverse student populations with high levels of poverty. Priority and Focus school demographics show that 75 percent receive Free or Reduced-Price Lunch, 68 percent of those enrolled are minority students, 26 percent are English language learners and 14 percent receive special education services.
This year, Governor Dayton and the Legislature invested $2 million to expand the state’s Regional Centers for Excellence, a key part of MDE’s efforts to offer comprehensive school support. Schools designated as Priority or Focus work with MDE and a Regional Center of Excellence to develop and implement a school improvement plan. Using a combination of professional development, on-site technical assistance and ongoing support, the centers help school leaders create and implement plans to narrow the achievement gap, increase students’ progress and growth toward career and college readiness, and increase student graduation rates.
By providing this strategic support and ensuring access to resources to aid their efforts, Priority and Focus schools are seeing notable growth. In fact, 78 percent of Priority schools demonstrated improvement, many by more than 20 percentage points on the MMR. Similarly, 71 percent of Focus schools demonstrated growth on the Focus Rating from the previous year.
Identifying what best practices were utilized in the improvement plans for schools that made substantial gains will be a focus of MDE this coming year. Commissioner Cassellius will soon be visiting these schools, offering administrators and staff the opportunity to share what’s working in their school in order to share their success with other schools across the state.
This year, 131 schools received a Reward designation, while 225 schools are classified as Celebration Eligible. These groups represent the highest performing of Minnesota’s 853 Title I schools. Of the schools designated as Reward, 79 of them have received the honor twice, while 20 have been recognized as a top performer all three years.
“I want to congratulate this year’s Reward and Celebration Eligible schools for their exceptional efforts, and especially commend the Priority and Focus schools for making such tremendous progress over the past two years,” Commissioner Cassellius said.
New Priority and Focus schools were not designated this year. Those schools are identified on a three-year cycle to allow time for new strategies to take hold and for the state to provide concentrated support and resources to those schools strategically identified as having the greatest need. New Priority and Focus schools will be announced in fall of 2014.