The Minnesota Department of Education recognized 22 schools across the state this week for their efforts in closing achievement gaps between white and minority students.
Almost all of the schools are elementary schools, including, M.W. Savage Elementary in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District and Northome Elementary in the South Koochiching-Rainy River School District. Four charter schools, including STEP Academy in Inver Grove Heights and Hennepin Elementary School in Minneapolis, were also commended.
The schools, given a “celebration” rating by the state, were selected out of 157 schools that applied for the designation.
The schools were recognized for improving graduation rates, boosting student achievement and reducing achievement gaps on state-mandated exams.
“I offer my congratulations to the teachers, school administrators, parents, and students who have worked together to make tremendous improvements in our schools,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a written statement. “We must build on their successes, and continue working to ensure a strong start for every student in Minnesota.”
No schools in the Minneapolis or St. Paul districts were recognized. The two districts have some of the largest achievement gaps in the state and have drawn criticism from Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius for not utilizing state programs aimed at helping schools improve.
Administrators at Community of Peace Academy, a charter high school in St. Paul, wrote in their application for the celebration school designation that teachers meet every week to review students’ performance. Students at the school are required to take a college-readiness class throughout their high school years. In ninth grade, the curriculum for that class “emphasizes personal ethics and responsibility.” In 12th grade, students identify colleges they want to attend and write college-entrance essays.
“For first-generation students whose parents often do not have background experiences or resources to navigate the college application and enrollment process, this guidance is critical,” administrators wrote.
According to the Education Department, over the past three years, 30 percent of schools that have earned the celebration school designation have gone on to become “reward” schools, those recognized as among the top 15 percent.