Three named Celebration Schools

by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter

Contributing writer

Three schools in the Elk River Area School District were recently named Celebration Schools by the Minnesota Department of Education. The schools are Lincoln Elementary and Parker Elementary, both in Elk River, and Otsego Elementary in Otsego.

The Celebration School designation is given to a select number of schools in the state with high performance levels as determined by the Multiple Measurements Rating, or MMR, which evaluates schools on proficiency, improvement on standardized testing, achievement gap reduction and graduation rate.

Only Title 1 schools, those that receive federal money for having a high percentage of low-income students, are eligible to receive the award.

Title 1 schools are divided into five categories, based on their MMR score: Reward, Celebration Eligible, Continuous Improvement, Focus, and Priority Schools.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, schools that receive a MMR that falls between the 60th and 80th percentile are deemed Celebration-eligible and are invited to apply for this recognition.

Of the 211 schools deemed eligible to apply, the Minnesota Department of Education received more than 140 applications, and from that group only 57 were chosen based upon their notable work to increase student achievement.

The schools selected were recognized at the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation (MAEF) conference.

Parker Elementary Principal Michael Malmberg believes there are a number of things his school has done that earned them the designation. For starters, the school utilizes many teacher subcommittees that help tackle individual issues. The school has also implemented the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools and a peer mentoring program as well as the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support system and a number of student recognition programs.

In the last four years, the school has shown great improvement in their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs, the standardized tests used statewide. From 2008 to 2012, Parker went from having 80 percent of its students earning proficient math scores to 90 percent. In reading, they climbed from 78 percent to 84 percent. And in science, they soared from 30 percent to 70 percent.

Malmberg also pointed out, “We schedule flexible intervention times into our day so we make sure we’re giving kids what they really need. If you have a third-grader who should have learned multiplication in the second grade but that child still doesn’t get it, instead of moving on we use that (intervention) time to bring them in and work with them.”

Lincoln Elementary Principal Donna Williams said that she utilizes a similar strategy with her students, wherein there’s time during the day where children who are behind can get extra help and children who are ready to move ahead of their classmates can get time to do that, too.

Williams was also proud of her students’ 15 percent jump in math proficiency on the MCAs. But most of all, she was just thrilled to have her hard-working teachers, staff and students recognized.

“It just feels good to know that kids are learning and we’re creating an environment that helps them do their very best,” she said.

Otsego Elementary Principal Erin Talley was excited to be getting kudos and positive feedback from parents about the school’s achievement. But she’s also looking to the future.

She said, “It’s great to get this kind of acknowledgement, but that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and rest on our laurels. We want to keep up the hard work and keep going in the right direction.”

Rep. David FitzSimmons, R-Albertville, congratulated Otsego for the honor.

“I’m pleased to see that our local schools are being recognized,” FitzSimmons said.