Laura MacArthur Elementary may receive $500,000 to aid student achievement

Laura MacArthur Elementary probably will receive $500,000 from the state to improve student achievement this fall, after being named a "priority" school under new state ratings.

Laura MacArthur Elementary probably will receive $500,000 from the state to improve student achievement this fall, after being named a "priority" school under new state ratings.

Priority schools can apply for school improvement grants, and because the new ratings mean fewer schools are designated as needing help, there is likely enough money for all that apply, Superintendent Bill Gronseth told Duluth School Board members at an education committee meeting on Tuesday.

"About $500,000 a year is to be used on a single school to raise achievement," he said of the three-year designation.

After Minnesota was granted a waiver from certain No Child Left Behind provisions last winter, the state Education Department released new ratings that officials said are more accurate gauges of school performance and will more effectively help to narrow the achievement gap between white students and students of color. They did that by recalculating data from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years to include growth, among other measures.

Laura MacArthur was among the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools in the state, which are schools that receive federal money for having a large population of low-income students. That means the school needs to work with the state and the district to make changes. Changes could mean professional development for teachers and restructuring of the day and curriculum. Staff members at Laura MacArthur have finished a "needs analysis," Gronseth said, but details of changes haven't been finalized. The new plan is due to the state Sept. 1 and will be in effect the first day of school.


The new ratings also designated Lincoln Park Middle School and Piedmont

Elementary as "focus" schools, or among the

10 percent of schools in Minnesota most responsible for the achievement gap. Those schools also are working on plans for the affected populations, which include students of color, low-income and special education students. The top-rated 15 percent of Title I schools were named "reward" schools.

Duluth results show that schools that regularly failed to make adequate yearly progress have had growth that wasn't recognized before, said Tawnyea Lake, director of performance, evaluation and assessment for the district.

And the state, she said, is acting in a supportive role rather than a punitive one.

"It's 'now we're going to come in and support you and work with you and meet with you regularly because we know this is really hard work,' " Lake said. "And they provide information on the similar school districts that have beaten the odds."

Lake said state education leaders have acknowledged it's not a perfect system, but it's a step in the right direction while No Child Left

Behind still exists.


"It's unfortunate that we have any schools with those designations, but the positive with that is we have the opportunity for additional resources to deal with changing it," said board member Tom Kasper. "The goal is to have no schools with a designation."

Schools now also have more freedom in how they make changes, and are no longer forced to pay for outside tutoring and transportation to alternative schools for repeatedly not making progress.

"Being able to offer tutoring services right at our schools where kids are familiar with teachers and staff will be a benefit," Kasper said.

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