Officials: Ratings complex, but working

Published 11:20 am Friday, May 25, 2012

Hayfield students Levi Anderson and J.B. Stackhouse work on papers in their 10th grade English class Wednesday morning.

Though the new Multiple Measurement Ratings data is more complex than the old federal school standards, rural educators say the new system seems to work thus far.

Minnesota Department of Education officials publicly released MMR data Tuesday. The new system is designed to replace Adequate Yearly Progress scores under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The latest data, using schools’ 2010 and 2011 AYP scores, was released as part of an NCLB waiver state education officials brokered with the U.S. Department of Education, which stipulated MMR needed to be released by the end of the school year.

“It is old data, and it’s more or less like a dry run to see the new system that they’ve put in,” said Ron Evjen, Hayfield Community Schools Superintendent.

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MMR data focuses on student growth and reducing the academic achievement gap between white and non-white/non-privileged students. The MMR benchmark reflects how well students did based on the academic growth shown in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores between 2010 and 2011, the graduation rate for those years, the achievement gap between white and non-white or non-privileged students, and whether students are meeting new MCA score benchmarks.

There’s also a Focus Rating, which determines how well schools are focusing on lowering the achievement gap. State officials use the same achievement gap data under the MMR while also looking at how well non-white and non-privileged students performed on the MCA.

“It gives you more detail and where kids are not meeting the standards,” said Jerry Reshetar, Grand Meadow and Glenville/Emmons Public Schools Superintendent.

MMR also classifies schools into groups such as Reward schools, which are the top 15 percent of schools in the state that receive federal aid for its number of students in poverty, Focus schools, the 10 percent of schools which contribute the most to the state’s achievement gap, and Priority schools, which are the 5 percent lowest scoring Minnesota schools. There were no Mower County schools recognized as a Reward school based on last year’s data.

The data won’t carry much meaning until the fall, when this year’s MCA scores are released. Educators will then be able to track how well their most recent efforts to bolster student growth worked. In rural schools, the focus is often on raising free-and-reduced-lunch student and special education student scores, according to Reshetar.

“For (Grand Meadow), the key two subgroups are the free and reduced lunch population and special ed,” he said.

Yet educators say the new scores better reflect what students actually learn, as opposed to getting students to make a grade.

“We’re hoping this system will be a much fairer way of judging how schools are doing,” Evjen said.