Linwood Elementary in the Forest Lake public schools was one of 48 schools designated last week as a "Celebration" school by the state Department of Education.

The Celebration schools represent the cream of a second tier of schools that receive federal poverty aid and posted student achievement gains in 2013.

Twenty-seven of the schools are in the seven-county metro area, and include nine in the St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts. Charter schools, most of them in the core cities, also made a strong showing on the state's list.

About a quarter of Minnesota's 2,200 public schools receive federal poverty funds, and for the past two years they have been ranked in five categories: Reward, Celebration, Continuous Improvement, Focus and Priority.

The ranking system is the product of the state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal law that many educators criticized as overly punitive.

Twenty-eight percent of Linwood students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with 38 percent at schools statewide. But its percentage of special education students exceeds the state average, at 18 percent, or 3 percent more than schools statewide.

Reward schools represent the top 15 percent of Title I schools, and "Celebration-eligible" schools comprise the next 25 percent. This year, 166 Celebration-eligible schools accepted the state's invitation to apply for Celebration status by documenting efforts they have used to boost student achievement.

"Schools for many years have felt penalized," said Josh Collins, a state Department of Education spokesman. "They're happy to be recognized on the positive side. That's been fun."

In a statement, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said: "Minnesotans should be proud of the work going on in our schools. I look forward to continue learning about their successful efforts to ensure all students succeed and share that work with other schools across the state."

At Linwood Elementary in Wyoming, 71 percent of its students were proficient in math in 2013, compared with 78 percent a year ago. But its science scores were up, with 69 percent of students being proficient, compared with 56 percent in 2012.

Earlier this fall, state education officials announced the list of Reward schools, including eight in the Washington County area. They include O.H. Anderson Elementary in the Mahtomedi public schools, Carver Elementary in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District, Lily Lake Elementary in the Stillwater schools, Birch Lake Elementary in the White Bear Lake schools, and Newport and Pullman elementaries in the South Washington County School District.

St. Croix Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Stillwater, and Valley Crossing Community School, a K-6 school in Woodbury run by the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District, also attained Reward status — a repeat honor for both schools.


Third-grader is named MDA goodwill ambassador

Ben Anco, a third-grade student at Woodbury Elementary School, has been named a 2014 state goodwill ambassador by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

He was honored with the new title during a surprise school assembly on Dec. 10.

As a goodwill ambassador, Ben will make public appearances throughout the community urging people to volunteer in the association's educational and fundraising campaigns, a South Washington County School District news release said.

He was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II, a hereditary disease covered by MDA's research and care programs. Ben has attended the association's summer camp and plays on a Miracle League baseball team during the summer, the district said.

Anthony Lonetree