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MMR scores improve at high school, drop elsewhere

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Education released its public school accountability results from the 2012-2013 school year.

“There was some disappointment when we saw the numbers,” said Perham-Dent Superintendent Mitch Anderson.

Heart of the Lakes Elementary and Prairie Wind Middle School saw their Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) scores drop to 40.67 and 56.52 percent, respectively.

Perham High School’s score improved from the previous year to 85.86 percent (up from 64.76).

In 2011, the elementary school had a score of 96.89 percent, placing it in the top 15 percent of schools in the state. The middle school’s MMR designation was 74 percent.

In an email to the Focus, middle school Principal Scott Bjerke said the results beg the question, “What was so different from last year to this year?”

Part of the fluctuation may come from how the state Department of Education calculates scores. The MMR scores measure schools’ change in four categories: proficiency, growth, achievement gap reduction, and graduation.

In order to receive more points, a school must continue to improve.

“They did so well at the elementary last year, it’s hard to keep growing,” said Anderson. “There are areas to be excited about. Our proficiency ratings were very high. We have to take the information we have and improve.”

Another challenge comes from measuring “subgroups” of students for scores. These subgroups include minorities, special education students, and free/reduced meal recipients.

“Our scores may not be as high, but often times, we are challenged with very little diversity in our population,” stated High School Principal Ehren Zimmerman.

Smaller subgroups can affect the points given for achievement gap reduction and growth scores.

“Part of the MMR is being informed about the numbers,” said Heart of the Lakes Principal Jen Hendrickson. “The key is to really look at things before coming to a conclusion.”

Brenda Cassellius, the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner, acknowledged in a press release that some MMR scores were lower this year because of changes, and subsequent lower scores, on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or MCA, tests.

In the end, numbers only mean so much.

“The designation will be used as a motivator to help us determine where we need to focus more of our time and resources,” wrote Bjerke.

Hendrickson shared a similar thought: “We need to look at the data and see what we can do to grow all of the kids.”

Other local school results:

-Frazee-Vergas Elementary: 85.84 percent (Reward designation).

-Frazee-Vergas High School: 38.32 percent.

-New York Mills Elementary: 75.07 percent (Celebration eligible).

-New York Mills High School: 88.26 percent.