Small enrollment at Montessori school means a few students can sway outcome
How can a school that was recognized as a School of Excellence two weeks ago now be labeled low-performing?
Because it fell within the bottom 25th percentile of state Title I schools in the Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR) that were released Aug. 30, Central Montessori Elementary School was pegged a “Continuous Improvement School” and must write a turn-around plan.
At the Sept. 6 school board meeting Dr. Lloyd Komatsu said because of the way the MMR is calculated, “it can be very sensitive to small differences or changes in the percentage of students making their goals.” Central Montessori has 120 students.
Komatsu, the school district’s assessment and evaluation coordinator, presented last spring’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) results, plus annual yearly progress (AYP) and MMR results.
Spring 2012 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments results were reported for math and reading.
Overall, 66 percent of FLAS students were proficient in the math test, compared to 62 percent statewide.
In general, the percent rated proficient in math decreased as the students moved up through the grades, from 76 percent for grade 3 to 46 percent for grade 11.
The Forest Lake results were similar to those for Minnesota as a whole, with grades 4 through 7 outperforming the state averages and grade 11 underperforming.
Komatsu said the low score for Grade 11 may be attributable to measurement error. “11th graders have seen both large gains and large losses over the past two years,” he said.
The overall reading test result was 79 percent proficient for FLAS students and 76 percent statewide.
The reading scores for each grade ranged from 74 percent to 83 percent proficient, and did not differ markedly from state averages. There was no downward trend with increasing age as for math.
Annual yearly progress proficiency results for reading and math were reported for each school in the district.
Seven Forest Lake schools had 100 percent of their subgroups making adequate progress. They were Columbus, Lino Lakes, Scandia and Wyoming Elementary schools, plus both junior highs and the high school.
Forest Lake, Forest View and Linwood Elementary schools all showed 83 or 84 percent of their subgroups making adequate progress.
The Alternative Learning Center failed to meet progress goals in reading and math.
Central Montessori Elementary School did not meet the target in reading.
Komatsu said a small number of subgroups not making AYP leads to very low percentile ranking: “Making AYP in 95 percent of the subgroups puts a school at the 39th percentile,” he said.
Central Montessori lost two cells because of Safe Harbor designation, which reduced its proportion of cells making AYP by 50 percent. “So just a few students have a big impact,” Komatsu said. “Some schools must be at the bottom, even if their achievement is very high in absolute terms. Fortunately, we have other data.”
In February the U.S. Department of Education approved Minnesota’s waiver request; now, instead of the “No Child Left Behind” mandate that requires 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014, Minnesota schools must cut in half the achievement gap between whites and other students by 2017.
Instead of relying on a single test, the Multiple Measures Ratings accountability system looks at performance through state test scores, growth in student achievement, progress toward closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, and (for high schools) graduation rates. The graduation rate target is 90 percent.
The MMR focuses on Title I schools, which receive additional federal funding because of the number of low-income students. Of the 12 schools in the district, six are Title I schools.
Two of those, Lino Lakes and Wyoming, were in the top 25 percent, making them eligible to apply for “celebration status.”
Scandia Elementary had a very high overall score (96 percent) but is not a Title 1 school, nor is Wyoming (75 percent).
For Central Montessori, which was labeled a low-performing school, Superintendent Linda Madsen said staff are working to determine which areas require attention.