Effective teachers, effective leaders and student success

by Dr. Mary Wolverton

A great amount of research has been done at every level of education, supporting the interaction between the teacher and the student in relation to student success. The research is compelling that effective teachers truly make a difference with increasing student success. Equally compelling, is the difference an effective school leader makes in creating a strong learning community for all staff and students in our schools. In the Anoka-Hennepin School District, we celebrate each day the great work of our teachers and our principals.

This summer, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provided recognition of this work. Under the Multiple Measure Rating (MMR), the state’s accountability system with the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCAs), a number of our elementary schools were acknowledged.

The new ratings are the result of implementation of a new, more accurate accountability system made possible through the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Commissioner of Education Dr. Brenda Cassellius notes, “With this new accountability system, we’ll be able to better assess how our schools are really doing, and put in place structures and resources to support their efforts. The overarching goal of the new measurement system and Minnesota’s waiver is to dramatically improve the disparity in academic performance between students of color and in poverty and their white counterparts, often called the ‘achievement gap.’”

The new ratings focus on Title I schools. A provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed in 1965, Title I is a program to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. Currently, there are 14 elementary schools in the district that are considered Title I.

The new ratings include three designations “Reward Schools,” “Focus Schools” and “Priority Schools.” In the designations, three of our elementary schools have been designated as Reward Schools: Madison, Eisenhower and Monroe. Schools that attained this designation are among the highest performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state.

Only one school is our district, Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School, is a Focus School. These schools are included in the 10 percent of schools contributing to the state achievement gap.

Priority Schools are the 5 percent most-persistently low-performing Title I schools in the state. There are 42 schools that received this designation. There are no Priority Schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

In August, MDE named schools that were “Celebration Eligible.” These schools are schools with MMR scores that place them in the top 80th to 86th percentile of top schools in Minnesota. The purpose of this award is to identify Title I schools that have demonstrated excellence on the MMR recognizing student proficiency, student growth, closure of the achievement gap and exhibited success with initiatives that have led to positive student outcomes.

Approximately 10 percent of Title 1 schools will be chosen. Six elementary schools in the Anoka-Hennepin Schools have attained this designation; Adams, Franklin, Hoover, Jefferson, Morris Bye and Wilson.

We truly celebrate the student success we see in our schools. In conversations with teachers and principals about their work, we celebrate their dedication and commitment to student achievement. Principal leadership, strong professional development for teachers and principals, and teacher collaboration are certainly variables that are critical in this equation. And we also know, that the dedication and the commitment of these professionals is truly a celebration.

My sons are graduates from the Anoka-Hennepin School District, and as a parent I experienced this at each level. I am proud to have the opportunity to support the staff in their work with our students.

Dr. Mary Wolverton is the  associate superintendent of elementary schools for the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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