School officials may appreciate the added nuance the new waiver system provides, but the extra measurements have created an arrangement that’s less intuitive that the System—where schools either made adequate yearly progress or they didn’t.
The new Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR) system grades schools in four categories:
- Proficiency: Incorporates the existing adequate yearly progress measurement, with results broken down into different student subgroups.
- Student growth: Measures how much schools helped students improve from one year to the next.
- Achievement gap closure: Measures the ability of schools to coax faster growth from traditionally underperforming subgroups by comparing the growth of the lower-performing groups at a school to the statewide average for higher-performing subgroups. For example, students of color would be compared to white students or students receiving free and reduced lunches would be compared to those who are not receiving them.
- Graduation rate
Schools can get a maximum of 25 points in each of those categories. The number of points a school receives is based on its percentile rank among other schools in the same grade range, with 100 percent the best percentile rank.
High schools can receive a maximum 100 points and elementary schools and junior highs, which don’t receive graduation scores, can receive up to 75 points.
Officials then calculate the percentage of points earned out of points possible to calculate the final “MMR” score, the grade that should dominate Minnesota school accountability discussions for the foreseeable future.
(For the inaugural year of the new system, officials calculated points based on the total possible for both 2010 and 2011 in order to offset any one-year spike.)
But wait. There’s more!
Schools also receive two other ratings:
- Focus rating: Measures proficiency and growth of minority students and students receiving special services—English-language learners, special education and students receiving free and reduced price lunch.
- Focused proficiency: A weighted percentage of students making adequate yearly progress—excluding the “all students” subgroup and the “white” subgroup.
After these scores are calculated, the Department of Education awards 30 percent of Title I schools with one of three designations:
- Reward Schools: The top 15 percent of schools (127 schools) based on MMR scores
- Priority Schools: The bottom 5 percent of schools (42 schools) based on MMR scores
- Focus Schools: The bottom 10 percent of schools (85 schools) based on the focus rating. There is no overlap between priority schools and focus schools because it's already assumed priority schools are addressing their issues without the additional label.
The designations are only awarded to Title I schools, which are schools that have higher concentrations of students receiving free and reduced lunch.
In August, the Department of Education will also announce which schools received two other designations.
- Celebration Schools: Strong-performing schools that didn’t receive the Reward School classification. Not much is known about this so-called “next 10 percent” of schools, although the department told school districts in February that they’d have to apply for the honor.
- Continuous Improvement Schools: The bottom 25 percent of schools.