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Test results give Perham, New York Mills schools a reason to celebrate

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According to newly released data, both the Perham-Dent and New York Mills school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress in 2012, meeting or exceeding all state-set academic goals.

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Signs of significant improvement and growth were evident in both school districts. Administrators are crediting that to the hard work of students, as well as to the staff's efforts to utilize data and focus instruction.

The data is compiled by the Minnesota Department of Education using results from MCA tests. These standardized tests are given to students in grades three through eight to help measure academic progress and proficiency levels. High school students are also tested, through the MCAs and the GRAD (Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma).

According to a press release from the Minnesota Department of Education, statewide assessment results show students in grades three through eight are making gains in reading and math. There was an average two-point gain in reading scores and even larger gains in math, the release stated.

The math gains are in part credited to the 88 percent of students who took the tests online. The online tests allowed students to take the test three times. Multiple options and immediate results helped teachers adjust their instruction techniques to help students meet their goals by the final test.

Results of the Multiple Measurement Ratings scores, which indicate how individual schools are doing based on specific education areas, will be released later this fall.

PERHAM-DENT

The Perham-Dent School District has shown some two-digit increases in both math and reading proficiency rates.

At Heart of the Lakes Elementary, where scores were notably low last year, the proficiency percentage in math jumped up by 19.51 percent - from 69 percent in 2011 to 88.5 percent in 2012. Reading rates grew by 6.59 percent, up from 78.5 to 85.1. In 2011, reading scores were too low to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, but this year's increased bumped the school over state recommendations.

Elementary School Principal Kari Yates said that, in response to last year's low scores, the school began a rigorous improvement plan to help focus instruction on what mattered.

For example, the school began a determined collaboration between special education, Title 1 teachers and classroom teachers to help focus instruction on each individual student.

If the latest scores are any indication, the plan is working. The special education math proficiency level increased by 31 percent (to 82.1 percent in 2012), and reading scores jumped 8.5 percent (to 56.4).

District-wide, Perham schools were able to stay above the state's target goals - even in areas where they failed to make AYP last year.

At Prairie Wind Middle School, reading scores among all students have increased from 80.1 percent to 81.1 percent - a small increase, but enough for the school to meet standards.

Despite the upward trend, Yates said test scores are not the only part of the equation that makes a well-educated child. The trick is to find ways to raise test scores, "while still preparing well-rounded citizens for tomorrow's world."

NEW YORK MILLS

Besides showing significant growth in most areas, one NY Mills score reached a historic milestone when 100 percent of ninth graders passed the writing portion of the GRAD test. This was a significant increase from last year's rate of 87.8 percent.

It's moments like this that High School Principal Blaine Novak and Elementary School Principal Judith Brockway said say a lot about the community of NY Mills.

What impresses Novak the most is the significant growth the students have made even in the four years since he became principal.

In 2011, 74.2 percent of students district-wide were considered proficient in reading; the newly released data shows that percentage has jumped to 79. The same is true in math. The district as a whole had 56.1 percent of kids meeting proficiency in 2011, which grew to 72.7 percent in 2012.

"I'm really, really proud of what teachers have done," Novak said, "especially the math department."

He was quick to add that it's never one teacher that helps a student achieve state standards, but rather the entire team, from kindergarten through high school, that year after year helps children succeed.

Brockway, who will begin her first year as elementary principal, said she is "stepping into a tradition of excellence," which she intends to continue in the future.

PERHAM-DENT RESULTS

MCA Reading Scores:

*Grade 3: 83.9%

Grade 4: 74.7%

Grade 5: 76.4%

*Grade 6: 83.7%

Grade 7: 70.4%

*Grade 8: 73.4%

*Grade 10: 84.5%

MCA III Math Scores:

*Grade 3: 87.7%

Grade 4: 71.6%

Grade 5: 55.1%

*Grade 6: 61.8%

Grade 7: 56.8%

*Grade 8: 66.9%

*Indicates percentage is above state average.

GRAD Test Scores:

Math: 58%

Writing: 92.5%

Reading: 87.9%

NEW YORK MILLS RESULTS

MCA Reading Scores:

*Grade 3: 91.1%

Grade 4: 69.6%

*Grade 5: 79.1%

Grade 6: 75.5%

*Grade 7: 88%

Grade 8: 67.3%

*Grade 10: 80%

MCA Math III Scores:

*Grade 3: 82.2%

*Grade 4: 76.1%

*Grade 5: 65.1%

*Grade 6: 69.4%

*Grade 7: 70%

*Grade 8: 71.4%

*Indicates percentage is above state average.

GRAD Test Scores:

Math: 72.5%

Writing: 100%

Reading: 80%

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