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Perham schools have work to do, MMR results show

The Perham-Dent School District has received its first results from the Minnesota Department of Education's new school ratings system. The numbers were not as high as hoped for, but school leaders say the next round of results will more accurately reflect the district's progress.

The new state system replaces federal No Child Left Behind laws, which Minnesota received a waiver from in February.

The state's new Multiple Measurement Ratings system, or MMR, is based on four different categories - proficiency, growth, progress in closing achievement gaps and graduation rates - which state and local leaders in education say makes it a fairer evaluation for schools.

Using data from the 2010-11 school year, Perham's Heart of the Lakes Elementary School's MMR proficiency percentage score was 33.33 percent, Prairie Wind Middle School's was 30.81 percent and Perham Senior High's was 69.34 percent.

According to an email from Charlene Briner, chief of staff for the Minnesota Department of Education, "Generally speaking, if a school has an MMR above 50, they are above average; if it's below 50, the school has some work to do."

Elementary principle Kari Yates explained that these scores were formulated with the same data used for last year's reports under the old laws.

"As a district, we were disappointed with our...results last year, and this is one more reminder of the importance of everything we've done this year to prepare our kids and, hopefully, improve our performance," Yates wrote in an email.

In August, the state department of education will release MMR data reflecting assessments from the 2011-12 school year.

"That's when we'll know where the instructional investments we made this year paid off and where we still need to work to improve," Yates said.

Middle school principal Scott Bjerke stated in an email that, "This new way of ranking schools will provide more insight... I really like the fact that there is a strong emphasis placed on student growth."

Although the district did not score well this time around, Bjerke said, "Preliminary data from this year's test indicates we made some real positive growth, so I'm interested to see what the ranking looks like from 2011 to 2012."

Perham schools did not receive any designations within the new MMR system. Some Title One schools are designated as Reward Schools (top 15 percent), Focus Schools (schools with wide achievement gaps and low graduation rates), and Priority Schools (lowest performing schools).