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Lowell and Garfield schools rank in top 25%

Results reflecting this past 2011-12 school year for Title I schools across the state were released Thursday, designating Garfield and Lowell Elementary Schools in the top 25 percent, or as Celebration Eligible.

In the second release of the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) new school ratings, the goal is to pave the way for growth and achievement with its new accountability system called the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR) — measuring in four categories:

• Academic proficiency — Incorporates the existing adequate yearly progress measurement, with results broken down into different student subgroups.

• Student growth — Measures how schools helped students improve from year to the next.

• Progress in closing achievement gaps — Measures the ability of schools to coax faster growth from traditionally underperforming subgroups by comparing the growth of the lower-performing groups at a school to the statewide average for high-performing subgroups. For example, students of color would be compared to white students or students receiving free and reduced lunches would be compared to those not receiving them.

• Graduation rates for high schools

Schools can earn a maximum of 25 points in each of those categories with the number of points based on a percentile rank among other schools in the same grade range on a scale up to 100 percent. Because elementary and middle schools do not record or receive graduation rates, they can receive up to 75 points, while high schools can receive up to 100.

After Minnesota was granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act that was put in place in 2001, the Minnesota Department of Education approached a new look at testing with the MMR, where the biggest goal, according to the MDE, is “to improve disparity between students of color and in poverty and their white counterparts, often called the achievement gap.”

Where the 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 MMR latest results used testing from the 2011-12 school year and includes designations:

• Reward Schools: The highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. The state named 128 schools in this category.

• Celebration Eligible: The next 25 high-performing schools and may apply for recognition as a celebration school.

• Continuous Improvement: These schools have the bottom 25 percent of MMR scores.

• Focus Schools: The lowest 10 percent of Title I schools making the biggest contribution to the state’s achievement gap. There are 85 schools that received this designation.

• Priority Schools: The 5 percent most-persistently low-performing Title I schools in the state. There are 42 schools that received this designation.

The MMR is used to determine Priority and Reward schools, combining proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates from 2010-11. The Focus Rating (FR) is used to determine Focus schools combining achievement gap reduction and focused proficiency from 2010-11.

With Garfield and Lowell recognized as Celebration Eligible in the state’s latest results, both schools may apply for recognition as a celebration school.

“We are still defining at a state level what schools will have to do to make an application to be recognized as a celebration school,” said Brainerd School District Superintendent Steve Razidlo. “But it is our intention to have Lowell and Garfield apply.

“We are very excited for this recognition in our district.”

The MDE’s first-ever MMR results released May 21 showed Brainerd School District’s Lowell Elementary in the designation of the highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state, listed as a Reward school. Lowell was the only school in the Brainerd School District and among area schools that was categorized into a designation at that time. Lowell scored 70.91 percent on the MMR and 75.35 percent FR while Garfield scored 63.61 percent MMR and 70.65 percent FR.

Despite Lowell losing the reputable reward title, Razidlo said he is still pleased with the recognition.

“Lowell may not be in the top 15 percent, but remains in the top 25 percent, which is wonderful,” said Razidlo. “We are excited to have schools in our district reach into that top quartile. That’s exciting. And we will look to study practices happening at Lowell and Garfield and what information we can use to help and focus discussion now on a broader set of measurements.

Is the fourth grade score better than third grade? Now we will make sure all of our schools are providing the best opportunity to catch kids up.”

Average MMR scores statewide are right around the 50 percent mark, with the majority of area schools recording percents above state average. In the Little Falls District, Lincoln Elementary was rated as needing continuous improvement, while Lindbergh and Dr. S.G. Knight elementary schools were rated as Celebration Eligible, which are rated between 60 percent and 85 percent on the MMR.

Pioneer Elementary in Pierz was rated a Reward School. In the Staples Motley District, the Motley Elementary School was rated as needing continuous improvement and the middle school was rated as Celebration Eligible.

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).