Moorhead Elementary Schools Make Dramatic Gains In New State Ratings

Secondary schools make progress in closing achievement gap

On Aug. 30, the Minnesota Department of Education released the Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) based on 2011-12 test results and data for schools across the state. Moorhead elementary schools made dramatic increases compared to this past May’s initial ratings, which used test results and data averaged from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

Previously under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools were labeled as “failing” or “not failing” based on scores from a single high-stakes test. Under the old rating system, all three Moorhead elementary schools made AYP or Adequate Yearly Progress for 2012.

The new MMR measures proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. Schools earn points in each category, and the percentage of possible points a school earns is the school’s MMR. This new tool is part of Minnesota’s waiver from No Child Left Behind.

A school’s Focus Rating (FR) is a secondary measurement within the MMR that measures schools specifically on the performance of student subgroups that may show an achievement gap in Minnesota (Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Free/Reduced Price Lunch, Special Education and English Learners). The state’s goal is to close the achievement gaps by 50 percent over the next six years.

In Moorhead, S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School improved 30.6 percent, going from 63.53 percent to 94.16 percent this year on the MMR, and the school’s FR increased 30.7 percent, going from 62.76 percent to 93.46 percent. Robert Asp Elementary increased from 43.53 percent to 76.40 percent this year on the MMR, a 32.9 percent increase, and from 55.50 percent to 98.86 percent on the FR, a 43.4 percent increase. Ellen Hopkins Elementary improved by 47.9 percent, going from 34.19 percent to 82.04 percent on the MMR, and from 26.67 percent to 81.96 percent on the FR, a 55.3 percent increase over last year.

All schools receive ratings, but Title I schools may receive additional designations. In Moorhead, both Hopkins Elementary and Robert Asp Elementary are Title I schools. Ellen Hopkins was identified as a Focus School based on the initial MMR last May and has written a school improvement plan that was presented to the School Board on Aug. 27. Focus Schools are the 10 percent of Title I schools with the largest achievement gaps in the state. These schools are identified once every three years.

Robert Asp Elementary has been designated as celebration eligible, which means it falls in the 10 percent of Title I schools with MMRs between the 60th and 86th percentiles and is eligible to submit an application explaining factors that make the school effective. The celebration-eligible status is a turnaround for Robert Asp, which had been identified for mandated restructuring under the former AYP system.

“We’re thrilled with increases at the elementary schools, which is evidence that our implementation of several research-based interventions has resulted in growth for all students,” said Superintendent Lynne Kovash. “This is very positive for our school district. We will be focused on maintaining these efforts and continuing improvements at the secondary level.”

At the secondary level, Horizon Middle School saw improvements, going from 30.60 percent on the initial MMR rating to 55.93 percent for 2012, a gain of 25.3 percent. The FR also increased from 25.54 percent to 36.94 percent this year, a gain of 11.4 percent.

At Moorhead High School, the school’s MMR decreased from 45.1 percent to 17.35 percent, in part because the graduation rate is being measured differently this year. The new rate looks at the percentage of ninth-graders in a school who graduate within a four-year period. This is a change from the AYP graduation rate, which looked at the number of students who graduate and drop out in a one-year period. This year, the target also increased from 85 percent to 90 percent.

Moorhead High’s Focus Rating improved 41 percent, going from 20.57 percent last year to 61.65 percent, indicating gains in reducing the achievement gap.

“I am confident that after gathering all the information from our data, positive changes will be made,” Kovash said.