ST. PAUL (AP) -- There's no magic formula for what constitutes a quality school, but new reports show common themes among struggling schools in Minnesota.
And with its initial investigation complete, state education officials hope to develop a system that can help every school improve.
After studying each of the 56 schools singled out last year for not making the grade, the state education department has compiled its most detailed look at what's going wrong.
High rates of poverty among students and large numbers of non-English speakers were already familiar issues at the schools that made the "needs improvement" list in December.
But state officials believe their new accountability system goes beyond such demographic issues and has given them a better sense of what's going on inside classrooms.
Curriculum and staff development, areas often difficult to measure, were two of the biggest problems in the specified schools, said Jessie Montano, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.
--Sometimes a school's fifth-grade teacher didn't know where the fourth-grade teacher left off the previous spring. For example, the report for Warren Elementary near East Grand Forks said teachers often weren't aware what other teachers in the school were covering.
--In more than one case, teachers weren't aware of the subject areas their students were expected to know for the math tests each third- and fifth-grader has taken the past four years. Teachers at LeRoy Elementary in southeastern Minnesota said they weren't familiar with the math-test specifications, the school's report said.
--School districts sometimes did a good job training teachers for a new curriculum but fell behind years later when more and more new teachers arrived and assumed assignments for which others had been trained.
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