The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released school reports this week that present a different approach to evaluating public schools serving K-12 students, following the state’s waiver for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandate.
While the data does not represent new test scores, it does shift the playing field for many Minnesota schools that had struggled with the NCLB legislation. Using a complex formula, the school reports use a combination of test scores, academic growth year to year, graduation rates and progress toward shrinking the achievement gap between middle class white students and minority students.
The results are a series of numbered, “point system” scores, divided by the total number of points a school is eligible for, producing a percentage for the school.
While some District 861 schools fared well under the new evaluation system, with Jefferson Elementary recognized in the top 15 percent of elementary schools in the state (it was also the first year that the STEM school was located at Jefferson), others did not, with Winona Middle School earning just 22.74 percent of points it was eligible for. The new, “Multiple Measurement Rating” provides several sets of figures for each school; the 22.74 percent is the overall, Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR).
Goodview Elementary netted the highest MMR percentage at 86.66 MMR; Jefferson Elementary School scored 85.29 percent MMR; Madison Elementary received 55.05 percent MMR; W-K achieved 46.14 percent MMR; Winona Alternative Learning Center scored 41.91 percent MMR; and Winona Senior High School received 41.31 percent MMR.
Rollingstone Elementary did not receive any MMR score data. District 861 Curriculum Director Jenny Bushman said she believed it was because the school is too small for subgroups within grade levels to be compared to one another, but added that she was waiting to hear back from MDE officials to learn if that was the case, and if so, how the school would be evaluated under the new system.
More to the numbers
The MMR percentage is just one component of the new system, which also provides a “focus rating” [FR] score that aims to show how well the school has reduced the achievement gap over the previous year.
Not all schools received FRs, in part because any subgroup, to be compared, needs at least 20 students.
The school with the highest marks for reducing that achievement gap over the previous year was Jefferson Elementary, with an FR score of 80.89 percent , followed by W-K Elementary with 50.83 percent, the Middle School with 18.20 percent and the Senior High at 17.06 percent. Other Winona Area Public Schools did not receive an FR percentage.
Reward, Focus, Priority
The system compares schools across the state based on the measurements, dubbing the top 15 percent as “Reward Schools” and the bottom five percent at “Priority Schools.” The ten percent of schools with the greatest contribution to state gaps in achievement are deemed “Focus Schools.”
Only Title 1 schools, or those that have the most students receiving free and reduced lunches, are designated as Reward, Focus, and Priority, and only one school in the district received a title at all, with Jefferson Elementary tagged as a top performing Reward School.
Overall, the new MMR system brings more positive news to school leaders across Minnesota. Last year, under NCLB, more than half of the state’s schools were flagged as not making adequate yearly progress. Under the MMR system, only the lowest scoring 5 percent will bear a Priority marking, with another 15 percent recognized with the Focus label, which qualifies them for state support.
District 861 MMR scores represent test scores from 2010 and 2011, just a different way of looking at the data. Bushman said that while the figures and spreadsheets may have changed, many of the district’s recent efforts at improving test scores and proficiency, such as achievement teams for each elementary grade level at each building, will continue.
“Data is what it is, and I think you have to look at it through that lens [to see] where we are at,” said Bushman. “This gives us the opportunity and the data to look at that and say ‘what are we going to do?’”
Those teams of teachers and staff members will continue, she said, to have those data driven conversations aimed at identifying trends and areas that need improvement. “I think it’s more focused than it’s ever been,” said Bushman.