Braham Board discusses new school ranking designation

Braham Area High School has been designated as a ‘Priority School’ in school rankings released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Education, based on its new accountability system.

However, as a School Improvement Grant (SIG) program school, BAHS was placed as priority status automatically.

The new ratings are the result of implementing a new system called Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR), made possible through the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, according to a MDE press release.

The goal of the new measurement system is to improve the disparity in academic performance between students of color and in poverty and their white counterparts, often called the “achievement gap.” The new accountability structure takes into account school performance in four categories; proficiency, growth, progress in closing achievement gaps and graduation rate. State officials hope the new focus will close Minnesota’s achievement gap, one of the nation’s highest, in half within six years.

The Minnesota Department of Education ratings also include three MMR designations: Reward Schools, Focus Schools and Priority Schools. Title I and SIG schools were the only types of schools evaluated for the MMR designation. Title I is federal funding targeted to help low-income students.

Reward Schools are the highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. The state named 128 schools in this category. Focus Schools are the 10 percent of Title I schools making the biggest contribution to the state’s achievement gap; 85 schools received this designation. Priority Schools are the 5 percent most-persistently low-performing Title I schools in the state; 42 schools received this designation.

BAHS’s rating of 35.02 reflects a score from 0 to 100 based on student proficiency on standardized tests, the amount of individual progress students made on tests and progress in closing the achievement gap.

“We feel very good about these results,” Superintendent Greg Winter said in an e-mail. “Because we are a SIG school, we are automatically put into the ‘Priority’ category.”

The ratings released Tuesday are based on last year’s test scores. New ratings using 2012 data will be released in August, Winter said.

As a SIG school, Braham’s rating doesn’t account for graduation rate because they got a “fresh start” last year, meaning that all previous years of data are no longer considered, Minnesota Department of Education representative Keith Hovis said in an e-mail.

“That’s why they don’t have any 2010 data included in their calculation,” Hovis said. “They have 2011 data for proficiency, growth and gap because that was their first year as a ‘new school,’ but graduation data is always a year behind, so grad rate data was actually from the 2010 school year, and since (Braham) fresh started, we don’t use any of their data from 2010.”

Superintendent Winter said he expects the school to lose its status as a Priority School when graduation rate is factored into the rating in the future.

“In August, the high school graduation rate will be factored in for Braham Area Secondary School,” Winter said. “With the factoring in of our high school graduation rate, we would be classified as neither a ‘Priority’ nor a ‘Focus’ school.”

BAHS received a 79.36 for its achievement gap rating. For Braham, this rating measures the gap between typical students and students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, a little over half of students.

“The achievement gap is largely based upon the free and reduced price lunch demographic,” Winter said. “This is a common achievement gap that many schools around the state see as an issue and remains a focus of their school improvement plan.”

Under the new system, schools designated as Reward Schools will be recognized for their good work. MDE will look to share any best practices taking place in their classrooms with other schools across the state, according to the press release.

Priority Schools will receive the full support of MDE and newly created Regional Centers of Excellence to develop a school turnaround plan based on the federal turnaround principles.

Under federal regulations, 19 of the schools identified as Priority Schools are currently operating under the School Improvement Grant program, including Braham. These schools will have the opportunity to exit the list in 2013 if they are no longer in the bottom 25 percent of Title I schools.

Schools designated as Focus Schools will work with their district to develop a school improvement plan that directly addresses poor performance either within a subgroup, or in graduation rates.

Pleased with the results and the high school’s continued improvement under the School Improvement Grant, Superintendent Winter said he expects to see Braham Area High School’s rating increase.

“We are looking forward to the August release of data that will be based upon this year’s test scores and include our graduation rates,” he said.

Board Member Tammy Ceaglske resigns

Because she and her family are moving out of state, the board accepted School Board Member Tammy Ceaglske’s letter of resignation, effective following the May 21 meeting.

The School Board presented Board Member Tammy Ceaglske with a certificate of appreciation for her years of service. Photo by Elizabeth Sias

“I appreciated having this opportunity,” she said. “I really have enjoyed working with you.”

The board presented Ceaglske with a certificate of appreciation for her two and a half years of service.

“The Braham Area School District and Board of Education hereby present Tammy Ceaglske with this certificate of appreciation, in recognition of your dedication and outstanding service as a School Board Member for two and a half years,” School Board Chair Steven Eklund read from the certificate.

“You will be missed,” Board Member Max Eng said.

With her resignation, Ceaglske also steps down from her position as school board clerk. Board Member Zane Braund was elected to fill the position, effective immediately.