North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale & Stillwater schools post top assessment scores

Last year, the state implemented a new assessment system, called the Multiple Measurements Rating, to evaluate how schools stack up in terms of students’ Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores and academic growth from year to year.

This year, several Stillwater Area District and North St. Paul-Maplewood Oakdale District Title 1 schools received recognition for their students’ achievements in the 2012-2013 school year.

District 834’s Lily Lake Elementary in Stillwater and District 622’s Carver Elementary in Maplewood both earned spots in the top 15 percent of Title 1 schools in the state for their students’ impressive test scores and reduction of the achievement gap.

Additionally, several schools in the districts were designated as “Celebration Eligible” for ranking in the top 40 percent of the state.

No District 834 or 622 schools were flagged as “Focus,” “Continuing Improvement” or “Priority” schools that are not currently meeting state standards.

District 834 Superintendent Corey Lunn was pleased with the schools’ rankings, which were released Oct. 1.

“Our students are continuing to perform at very high levels,” Lunn said. “It’s even more exciting to see academic growth improving from year to year among students who may be at academic risk. This is a credit to our students, who are working so very hard, and our staff who are dedicated to meeting the personal needs of each child.”

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale District Superintendent Patty Phillips echoed similar sentiments.

“We’re happy about it. We’re really excited,” she said. “Our hard work is paying off.

“We have some great building managers, and we hope to continue the positivity,” Phillips said.

Recognizing Title 1 schools

The MMR recognition program only ranks schools that are designated as “Title 1 schools” that receive state funding to help children from low-income families meet academic standards.

These schools typically have high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.

“Schools accepting Title I funds are required to provide all children with fair, equitable and significant educational opportunities in order to obtain a high-quality education and to reach — at a minimum — proficiency on challenging state academic standards and assessments,” the Minnesota Department of Education explains.

In addition to the overall rating, schools are evaluated using a “Focus Rating,” which uses data on proficiency and growth for only students of color, special education students, students in poverty and English learners.

Reward Schools

Schools that place in the top 15 percent of the state, like Lily Lake Elementary and Carver Elementary, are called “Reward Schools.” Only 131 schools in the state received this recognition for the 2012-2013 school year.

Stillwater District’s Lily Lake Elementary had an 85 percent overall MMR rating and a 92 percent focus rating. Second-year Principal Mark Drommerhausen says staff’s renewed emphasis on standard-based learning helped students score higher on state standardized testing last year.

“We’re making sure there’s a focus and purpose in every lesson we teach. We weren’t a Reward School last year, so there’s some nice improvement there,” he explained. “It’s a great honor to receive this. Our staff worked extremely hard — and more than just our staff: volunteers, the community and families really went above and beyond.”

District 622’s Carver Elementary in southern Maplewood had a 94 percent overall rating with a near-perfect 97 percent focus rating. Principal Isis Buchanan, who is new to the school this year, said hard work and dedication from students and staff helped boost the school’s score.

“Although we have made gains, we must keep working to provide each child with a high quality education,” Buchanan explained. “Carver Elementary School’s purpose is to meet the needs of all learners through a respectful, challenging, safe and caring learning community.”

Carver Elementary last year was recognized as a Celebration school as well.

Celebration Eligible

Schools that place in the top 40 percent are designated as Celebration Eligible. This means they can choose to apply for recognition as a “Celebration School.” The state Department of Education selects approximately 10 percent of Title 1 schools to receive the Celebration School status.

Three of the nine North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale elementary schools ranked high enough to be recognized as Celebration Eligible. Cowern, Richardson and Weaver elementaries, led by principals Sonya Czerepak, Jenna Peters and Pangjua Xiong, respectively, posted overall ratings of more than 50 percent with focus ratings of 66 percent or higher.

In District 834, Afton-Lakeland Elementary, led by principal Tom Hobert, and Lake Elmo Elementary, led by principal Stephen Gorde, were recognized as Celebration Eligible with overall ratings of 67 percent or higher and focus ratings of 71 percent or above.

Other schools experience

While the growth seen in Title 1 schools should be celebrated, schools that do not receive Title 1 funding are not included in the Department of Education’s recognition system. Nevertheless, many other schools in the two districts also posted high ratings and significant growth.

“All but three schools improved their ratings from 2012-2013 with the most significant gains coming from Tartan (High School), 622 Alternative Learning Center, Richardson and Cowern (elementaries),” the District 622 website says.

Stillwater District 834 says major growth was evident at several of its schools as well.

“Lake Elmo, Lily Lake and Withrow elementary schools and Oak-Land Junior High and Stillwater Area High School all scored well above the state average for growth, with Withrow leading the way by scoring in the top two percent of schools in the state. The high school and Lily Lake also scored well above average for closing the achievement gap for the various subgroups,” a district news release says.

For more MMR data, visit the Minnesota Department of Education website at

Johanna Holub can be reached at or 651-748-7822.

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