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Named Celebration eligible: Brainerd schools cut the achievement gap

Four Brainerd schools were recognized Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Education for cutting the achievement gap.

The education department Tuesday released the 2015 Multiple Measurement Ratings, which show nearly two-thirds of schools are on track to meet the state's goal of cutting achievement gaps in half in reading and math by 2017.

"Every year we ask our schools to meet tougher and tougher targets and every year I am inspired by the incredible dedication and passion of our educators to meet these targets and increase student achievement," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a release. "There is still work to do, but I know our teachers and administrators are committed to helping every child succeed."

Three Brained Public Schools elementary schools were named Celebration-eligible: Harrison, Lowell and Riverside elementary schools. Garfield Elementary School was recognized as a Reward school.

In 2013, the district had no Celebration-eligible or Reward schools, said Tim Murtha, director of teaching and learning for Brainerd Public Schools.

"This is a real positive indicator for us, that we're starting to move really well in good directions," Murtha said.

One way the district is able to close the achievement gap is by looking at student achievement data from Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments and link it to other data on yearly student growth, Murtha said.

"What you see is we're starting to show growth in that more students are making more growth on consecutive years," Murtha said.

The improving Brainerd High School graduation rate also means the district is on track to the 2017 No Child Left Behind goals, Murtha said.

"We're doing some really good things around high school graduation as well," Murtha said.

The MMR is a percentage score for all schools in the state and includes data on proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates.

The focus rating is a percentage score for all schools and includes data on proficiency and growth for only students of color, special education students, students in poverty and English learners.

• Garfield Elementary School: MMR-88.91 percent, focus rating-90.48 percent.

• Harrison Elementary School: MMR-69.45 percent, focus rating-77.22 percent.

• Lowell Elementary School: MMR-69.63 percent, focus rating-78.94 percent.

• Riverside Elementary School: MMR-58.35 percent, focus rating-82.42 percent.

Along with MMR scores for every school in the state, the department released the list of 2015 Reward schools - public schools demonstrating exemplary academic achievements in state exam proficiency, student growth, graduation rates and closing achievement gaps.

Every year, the top 15 percent of schools that receive Title I funding - allocated to schools with high levels of students in poverty - are recognized as Reward schools. This year, 119 schools received the Reward designation.

The department also released its list of schools eligible to apply for the Celebration designation due to their significant progress in closing achievement gaps. Schools designated Celebration-eligible schools may choose to apply for full Celebration designation and winners will be announced in early December.

The MMR evaluations are part of Minnesota's No Child Left Behind Flexibility waiver and evaluates a school's performance on four key measures, including:

• Student proficiency on state exams.

• Student growth over time.

• Increased graduation rates for high schools.

• Reduction of achievement gaps between white students and students of color, students living in poverty, students receiving special education services and English learners.

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or Follow on Twitter at

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

(218) 855-5859