Though we address the issue of student achievement daily through our work in Brainerd Public Schools, we understand recent changes to our state’s public school accountability system have left many community members confused — even those with a deep understanding of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
I am taking this opportunity to provide a brief overview for our community. At its core, this is the system that ensures every student in our schools is getting the best opportunity to succeed academically.
The federal No Child Left Behind legislation was enacted in 2001. This legislation promotes student achievement through school and district reform. NCLB requires each state to implement a system for holding districts and schools accountable for student education — with the ultimate goal to have every student proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) assessed the progress each school was making toward reaching that 2014 goal. Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is the federal measurement to determine whether schools are on track to meet the goals. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams are used as the key method for gathering student data on academic achievement of state standards. The MDE academic standards provide laser sharp focus and alignment of the knowledge and skills our students need to learn throughout their K-12 educational careers.
In 2011 Minnesota applied for and was granted a waiver to NCLB. The waiver enables the MDE to replace the 2014 universal proficiency goal with the goal of reducing the achievement gap by 50 percent by 2017. With the waiver in hand, MDE introduced the multiple measurement rating (MMR) this year, which uses proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction, and graduation rate to determine a single 0-100 percentage score for every school in the state.
The new system clearly focuses on closing the achievement gap and promoting growth for all students.
Generally speaking, the achievement gap is the ongoing difference in educational performance between specific groups of students based on gender, race, or economic status.
The MMR provides information on how individual students and certain groups of students are growing in their learning and how quickly they may be closing the gap. It also provides data on the continued gains of our high achieving students.
The district supports the new system as proficiency measures are still in place. The addition of the growth and achievement gap data provides the district with broader and more detailed information about every student. With this data, teachers can plan more intentionally and provide focused instruction to promote student growth.
The MMR scores for schools receiving Title I funding, federal funds provided to schools that have a higher level of students in poverty, will be used to identify each school as one of the following:
• Reward School: The top 15 percent of the highest-performing in the state.
• Celebration Eligible: The next 25 percent of the highest performing in the state.
• Continuous Improvement: The lowest performing 25 percent in the state.
• Focus School: The 10 percent of schools showing the largest achievement gaps in the state for one or more sub-groups of students.
• Priority School: The lowest performing 5 percent in the state.
We are proud to have two of our four elementary schools that receive Title I funding recognized for their achievement. Both Garfield and Lowell schools have attained “celebration eigible” status. It is through the hard work of staff and students at these schools and across our entire district that we will ensure our students are prepared for bright futures.
Deb Lechner is the director of Teaching and Learning at ISD 181.