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|Paynesville Press - November 23, 2005|
PAHS honored for double five-star rating
Paynesville Area High School was one of 12 high schools in the state to earn a five-star rating in both reading and math on the 2005 school rankings. Principals Lorie Floura and Deb Gillman represented the school at a meeting with the other double five-star schools, facilitated by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, on Thursday, Nov. 3.|
"It was really an honor to be there," said Floura, the secondary school principal, including PAHS.
At the meeting were representatives of the 12 high schools in the state that earned five-star ratings in both reading and math this year.
In addition to Paynesville, the other schools were: Bloomington Jefferson; Eastview; Edina; the Math and Science Academy (a charter school in Woodbury); Mounds View; Northfield; Orono; Rosemount; St. Anthony Village; Watertown-Mayer; and Woodbury.
Five-star ratings are the top honor for schools on the annual report cards for "No Child Left Behind." Reading results are based on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment given to tenth graders in the 2004-05 school year, and math results are based on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) given to juniors in 2004-05.
To earn a five-star rating, a school must make Adequate Yearly Progress under "No Child Left Behind," and it must meet at least two additional criteria: either having fewer than 10 percent of students score in Levels I and II on the MCA; having more than 30 percent scoring in Level 5 on the MCA; having a test performance in the top 25 percent of comparable schools (based on the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, a socio-economic indicator); or having a test performance in the top 10 percent of comparable schools (based on school size).
In reading, Paynesville students made AYP, had fewer than 10 percent in Levels I and II, had a reading performance rank in the top 25 percent among comparable schools (in free/ reduced students, and had a reading performance in the top 10 percent among comparable schools (in size). PAHS also earned a five-star ranking in reading last year, the first year for these school report cards.
In math, Paynesville students made AYP, had a math performance rank in the top 25 percent among comparable schools (in free/ reduced students, and had a math performance in the top 10 percent among comparable schools (in size). PAHS earned a four-star rating in math last year.
Among neighboring school districts, only EV-W High School earned even one five-star rating this year (in math). (Eden Valley Elementary School was a double five-star elementary school.)
The meeting of double five-star high schools, according to Dr. Mary Ann Nelson, the assistant commissioner for academic excellence at the Minnesota Department of Education, was intended to celebrate the success of these schools, to gain insight into what they have done to be successful, and to talk about new initiatives by the Department of Education.
The two-hour meeting was meant to be informal, said Nelson, and was moderated by Commissioner Seagren, who was "thrilled" with the dialogue and "intrigued" and "impressed" by the input from these school leaders.
Seagren, who facilitated all but 15 minutes of the meeting, asked lots of questions trying to discover why these schools were so successful, said Nelson. The discussion ranged from successful strategies that these schools had used to increase student achievement and to challenges that the schools continue to face. There was lots of cross dialogue between the school representatives, and the dialogue went so well that only a little time was left to present new department initiatives, said Nelson.
It was a "big honor to be at the table with the other districts," said Floura. "It was just neat to be able to listen," she added.
Paynesville was the last to share at the forum, said Gillman, who serves as the district's curriculum coordinator as well as its elementary principal. Paynesville was able to achieve this double five-star rating despite limiting its spending on staff development in recent years to help balance its budget and rebuild a fund balance. While Paynesville has spent less than one percent of its budget on staff development for the last four or five years, Edina spends two percent annually, said Gillman.
When they talked about Paynesville's efforts to improve student achievement without staff development funding, "that got their attention," said Gillman.
"Jaws dropped," added Floura.
The two local administrators agreed that the Paynesville staff deserves a lot of credit for their work. The staff has worked hard, often on its own initiative, said Flora. "(We're) really proud of our staff," added Gillman.
Parents, students, staff, and the community should take pride in being a double five-star high school, continued Gillman.
And while this ranking specifically comes from test performance at the high-school level, Floura said it recognizes the strong foundation of education these students got at Paynesville Area Elementary School and Paynesville Area Middle School.
Paynesville was the second smallest high school to earn five-star ratings in both reading and math - only the Math and Science Academy, a charter school in Woodbury, had a lower enrollment than Paynesville - and it was the only rural school to do this (counting Watertown-Mayer and Northfield as suburban schools).
While PAHS's strong test scores were not as high as the other suburban schools that earned double five-star ratings, Paynesville had the highest number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches and one of the highest rates of special educaton students. The number of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches is a key socio-economic indicator, and PAHS had 23 percent of its student qualify; Watertown-Mayer was next with 14 percent.
One commonality between all the high schools that earned a double five-star rating were the personal connections between staff and students, said Floura and Gillman.
Students across the state of Minnesota continue to excel, said Nelson, citing the state's top rating on the ACT test as one example, and one purpose of the meeting of double five-star high schools was to celebrate the success of these schools. The Minnesota Department of Education continues to try and dialogue with students, parents, teachers, administrators, business leaders, and the community about preparing Minnesota students for succeeding in the global economy and how education needs to evolve to continue to excel.
Floura and Gillman, who recapped this meeting for the district's curriculum committee, also on Thursday, Nov. 3, and for the Paynesville Area School Board on Wednesday, Nov. 9, said Paynesville schools need to continue to look for ways to increase student achievement. "We should be very proud of (this honor) and learn from it," said Floura, "but we need to continue to strive for improvement."
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