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Perham, NY Mills schools earn Reward designation

Area schools celebrated last week after the Minnesota Department of Education released Multiple Measurement Ratings showing significant growth. Perham's Heart of the Lakes Elementary School and New York Mills' elementary and high schools received Reward designations - the highest label in the state's new system.

Heart of the Lakes Elementary School Principal Kari Yates said staff celebrated during a workshop last week.

"We clapped, cheered, hugged, and there were even some tears of relief that all this hard work really paid off," Yates said.

NY Mills celebrated, too, with administrators donning party hats and singing along to Queen's "We are the Champions."

"We are proud of our kids and the work our staff are doing to help children succeed," NY Mills High School Principal Blaine Novak said.

The MMR is calculated using combined data from standardized tests and other factors. It's a measure of proficiency, student growth, achievement and, for high schools, graduation rates.

"The benefits of the new Multiple Measurement Ratings system is the more precise information it gives us and local schools about how all students are doing and where improvement efforts should be focused," said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius in a press release.

Reward status was given to the top 15 percent of schools in the state, to signify them as leader schools. Only schools that receive federal Title 1 dollars may be labeled. One hundred and twenty-eight schools in the state received this label.


Heart of the Lakes Elementary's rating of 96.89 percent almost triples last year's MMR number of 33.33 percent. That number was released last May using data from 2011.

"It's so exciting. Its an indicator that we are really on the right track," Yates said.

Heart of the Lakes received 100 percent on the proficiency part of the rating. While this does not mean that all children were proficient, it does mean 100 percent of subgroups as a whole met proficiency targets set by the state. These subgroups include the Free and Reduced Lunch group and Special Education group.

The elementary school also showed significant growth from year to year, and closed its achievement gap among subgroups.

"Everyone is pulling in the same direction for kids," with ongoing collaboration and conversation," said Yates.

Prairie Wind Middle School also saw significant growth, earning an MMR rating of 73.05 percent - more than double last year's 30.81.

Despite this growth, the middle school was not eligible for a designation from the state because it did not receive Title 1 funds.

In contrast, Perham High School's MMR numbers dropped from 69.34 percent in 2011 to 64.76 percent in 2012.

While the school scored high in two of the categories - proficiency and graduation rate - the remaining two were well below average. The growth and achievement gap categories were at 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

High school Principal Ehren Zimmerman said all the school's core subject teachers will be taking a closer look into identifying standards met during each lesson they teach, in reaction to these numbers.

"It's our goal for the 2012-13 school year," Zimmerman said.

He added that school staff is excited graduation rates have stayed steady and proficiency levels remain high.

New York Mills

NY Mills schools have reason to celebrate, with both the elementary and high schools receiving Reward status this year.

NY Mills Elementary School's MMR results more than tripled, from 30.59 percent in 2011 to 93.60 percent this year.

New Elementary Principal Judith Brockway said that, although she wasn't at the school last year, "the scores speak to the commitment by our staff to student learning and excellence... and the student's dedication to becoming life-long learners."

Since her arrival in NY Mills, Brockway has been impressed with the "professionalism and the sense that we are all part of the NY Mills family."

NY Mills High School was given the Reward label last May using the data from prior years. The new data allowed the school to keep its Reward status, as it showed significant growth - from 80.4 percent with 2011 data to 97.09 with the most recent data.

High school Principal Blaine Novak said staff has been working hard to identify what students need to know and, "defining essential learning in each course."

Novak added that student success is not solely due to the school. When students succeed in school, he said, it is because the community is standing behind them.

MMR scores at other area elementary schools included: Frazee, 96.94 percent; Battle Lake, 82.78 percent; Sebeka, 65.10 percent; Menahga, 89.67 percent; Wadena, 54.22 percent; and Henning, 82.01 percent.

Area high school results were: Frazee, 59.87 percent; Battle Lake, 95.72 percent; Sebeka, 97.98 percent; Menahga, 81.37 percent; Wadena, 51.35 percent; and Henning, 95.61 percent.