Six of Anoka-Hennepin School District’s elementary schools received the highest designation in the state’s accountability system, and another five district schools ranked in the next highest category, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Education Oct. 1.
Only schools that receive federal Title I funding for educating high percentages of students in poverty were eligible for the designations. In Anoka-Hennepin, all Title I funding is directed to elementary schools so no middle or high schools were eligible.
“This doubles our number of Reward schools over last year and it means that 80 percent of our 14 elementary schools with high levels of poverty ranked in the top third of schools in the state,” said Dr. Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent for elementary education. “That is fabulous.”
Wolverton was thrilled with the results and admitted getting a bit emotional when she got the news, she said. “It’s validation of our organization working as a system to support student,” Wolverton said.
“The results support that in our buildings we have principals who are visionary instructional leaders and teachers who truly know how to meet the instructional needs of students”
Superintendent Dennis Carlson said people are sitting up and taking notice of Anoka-Hennepin’s success. “They are asking me, why, as a district, are we achieving these kinds of results,” he said.
“We are doing a great job of educating poor students and students of color. There is nothing better than good instruction in the classroom, and that’s what we are seeing. We have also put in place a pretty good backbone of student support.”
The top ranked schools, known as Reward schools, are Adams, Eisenhower and Hoover in Coon Rapids; Lincoln and Wilson in Anoka; and Monroe in Brooklyn Park. They are among the top 15 percent of schools in Minnesota.
Schools ranked in the next 25 percent, known as Celebration eligible schools, are Jefferson, Madison and University Avenue in Blaine and Mississippi and Morris Bye in Coon Rapids.
They are eligible to submit applications to the Minnesota Department of Education to be among the top 10 percent selected for recognition later in the year as Celebration schools. (Last year both Franklin and Hoover were successful in this process and earned Celebration designation during the year.)
Principals were ecstatic too, especially Amy Oliver, new principal at Monroe School, which is one of only 20 schools in the state that have been named Reward schools all three years that this accountability system has been in place. “I was so surprised and so pleased for my staff,” she said.
Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts is a Reward School for the first time, though it had a situation similar to Monroe with a change of principal in January last year and a new principal this fall.
New Principal Scott Lempka credits staff for their hard work. “This is a very dedicated and collaborative group,” he said. “They care deeply about their students’ academic success and this year’s scores are very validating of their efforts.”
Wilson jumped from a Celebration eligible school last year to a Reward school this year and had the highest number of Multiple Measures Rating (MMR) points in the district, earning 99.3 percent of points eligible.
MMR ratings points are earned on the basis of four measures:
• Proficiency on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) students take each year.
• Growth of individual students on MCA from one year to the next.
• Reduction of the achievement gap between lower-performing subgroups and higher-performing subgroups.
• Graduation rate of high schools.
“For a Title I School to get 99.3 percent is phenomenal,” said Wolverton.
Wilson Principal Ranae Case Evenson agrees. “I felt a huge sense of pride for the hard work this staff has done and for the parents who support our school,” she said.
Both Adams and Hoover also moved from Celebration eligible to Reward status this year.
Adams Principal Jeremy Tammi said a large part of his school’s success has been a shift in the way they approach instruction. “Educators are no longer saying to themselves, ‘I taught the skill,’ but the students didn’t learn and move on,” he said.
“We are now asking that same question not only to ourselves, but teammates as well. ‘I taught the skill and the students didn’t learn the skill, what can we do as a team to make sure every student learns the essential skill’.”
Hoover principal Gwen Sherburne attributes it to staff deepening their understanding of the state standards and creating student-friendly “I can” statements. As a result, “students have a better understanding of their own learning targets,” she said.
Eisenhower is in its second year as a Reward school. Principal Kari Rock also noted the importance of focusing on the individual child. “It has made a difference in student achievement at our school,” she said.
According to Carlson, the district will maintain its commitment to providing the best education possible for every student, starting them off with a great preschool and kindergarten program and then providing opportunities to earn up to two years of college credit while they are in high school.
“If you have a solid early learning program and an attainable goal of early college, you are truly preparing students for life,” Carlson said.
Carlson also believes a large part of the district’s success is the character of the people who have moved to the communities that make up the school district, he said.
“These are people who want a decent house at an affordable cost, low taxes and a good education,” Carlson said. “They are also people who are highly engaged in their children’s education. They want them to succeed.”