District 16 student MMR scores improve

Spring Lake Park District 16’s traditional schools, for the most part, increased their ratings under a recently rolled out Multiple Measure Ratings (MMR) accountability system, while Westwood Intermediate School has been recognized as a high performing Title I school.

The Minnesota Department of Education last week released the 2012 MMR results.

“While we’re pleased in their (students’) progress, we want to continue to see more progress,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said.

The new system is the result of a waiver the state received last February setting up an alternative system to monitor school performance in place of the federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements. The system calls for a shift of accountability for Minnesota schools from a single high-stakes test to multiple measures. The measures emphasize student growth and performance of diverse and disadvantaged students.

This means, no failing schools as is the case in NCLB. Still, scores continue to be based on adequate yearly progress (AYP) results. But the waiver ensures under-performing schools are not subjected to sanctions doled out under NCLB.

Instead, MMR offers a more comprehensive measuring of student test scores. It recognizes top performing schools and focuses on closing the state’s achievement gap in schools.

The bottom percent of Title I schools in the state are designated as Continuous Improvement Schools, Focus or Priority. Those schools are required to write a school improvement plan.

A first MMR round of data was released in April 2012 and based on the averages of the 2010 and 2011 school year.

The second round results released last week are based on 2011-12 school year data.

Spring Lake Park Schools

Under the MMR system, schools receive an MMR rating and a focus rating. Ratings measure multiple data categories rather than relying on a single-year test score (the Multiple Comprehensive Assessments) under the NCLB system.

The MMR data measures four categories: proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation.

District 16 continues to focus on closing the achievement gap.

“It comes down to high expectations for each kid, learning individual needs and collecting data,” Ronneberg said. “It’s not just looking at results; it’s taking action based on those results.”

Spring Lake Park High School’s MMR rating increased from a two-year average (2010 and 2011) of 62.74 percent to 66.21 percent in 2012. Westwood Middle School increased from 49.93 percent to 60.74 percent, while Westwood Intermediate’s rating increased from 56.99 percent to 63.46 percent in the same time period.

In the nontraditional Learning Alternatives Community School, students’ two-year averages (2010-2011) decreased from 86.14 percent to 76.57 percent. But the Learning Alternatives Middle School rates jumped from 75.87 percent to 88.97 percent.

A secondary measurement within the MMR – the Focus Rating – measures proficiency and achievement gap reduction.

SLP High School’s Focus Rating decreased from the first round of results released in the spring. The rating dropped from 46.11 percent to 40.87 percent.

To increase learning, a new data management system has been put in place at the high school. The district is developing common assessments for each high school course, which will identify those students meeting expectations and those who are struggling. The data will allow for interventions to help kids succeed, Ronneberg said.

Westwood Middle School realized an increase from 59.60 percent in its Focus Rating to 71.40 percent, while Westwood Intermediate School also saw a rise in its rating from 61.17 percent to 69.95 percent.

The Learning Alternatives Community School did not have enough students in one or more of its subgroups to warrant a score in last spring’s report. This time around, however, the school scored a Focus Rating of 70.21 percent.

The Learning Alternatives Middle School’s Focus Rating rocketed from 75.75 percent in last spring’s scores to 90.65 percent.

District 16’s focus is not only to see improved results “but to see more kids successful each year,” Ronneberg said, about a mission of the district – to have students college or career ready when they leave the education system.

The state’s K-3 schools do not receive a rating under the new MMR accountability system because there’s not enough testing data to measure (the state tests start in third grade).

Westwood recognized

The MMRs recognize the top 15 percent of Title 1 students in the state as a rewards school.

While no District 16 school was named in the Rewards category, Westwood Intermediate was recognized as Celebration Eligible, one of 211 schools in the state named as such.

The new Celebration Eligible category has been added to recognize the next 10 percent of high achieving Title I schools after the Rewards schools.

“We are excited to be recognized,” said WWI Principal Tom Larson. “The second step is to apply to be a celebration school.”

Larson credits a system of interventions, a districtwide initiative in place to meet the needs of both struggling students and students above grade level, for an increase in his school’s MMR ratings.

Title I schools receive federal funding based on their level of poverty.

Reward Schools and Celebration Eligible schools are identified annually.

An early analysis shows a gain in the state’s effort to close the achievement gaps, according to a statement from the Minnesota Department of Education.

“Minnesota’s achievement gaps are still unacceptably large, but I believe the new accountability measures we’ve put in place, along with our new focus on closing gaps and improving outcomes for every students, will continue to accelerate the gains we see today (Aug. 30),” Commission of Education Brenda Cassellius said in a press release.

For more information, visit the Department of Education’s website at http://education.state.mn.us.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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