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Apprehension dissipates as ACGC makes massive leap in test scores

ATWATER — A ripple of apprehension among ACGC elementary school teachers early Tuesday morning was quickly replaced with applause and cheers as the news was revealed that the school had made a huge leap in student test scores this year.

Results from the states Multiple Measurement Ranking system showed that the K-4 school was launched from the lowest-performing “priority” school status to the highest-ranking “reward” school status.

It was a superman leap over a very tall building.

In 2011 the school had eked out just 5.44 percent of the total points possible.

In 2012 in moved up to 19.95 percent.

This year it soared to 94.97 percent.

The district made good gains in student growth and reducing the achievement gap and added to its already good scores in the area of proficiency.

The state test results were made public Tuesday and the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board and administration wanted to let staff and students know they were ecstatic with the improvements.

“Thank you so much for your hard work. We appreciate it,” said Kodi Goracke, ACGC Elementary Principal, during a mini-celebration in the library with balloons, coffee and treats for the teachers before classes started. Other events were held Tuesday and more are scheduled today for students and other school staff.

Goracke said she had hoped the school would get to 40 to 50 percent of the possible points and was nearly speechless when she had access to the new scores on the Minnesota Department of Education website last week.

She confessed that she logged out and back onto the system two times just to make sure she was looking at the correct information.

The information was embargoed until Tuesday and the administration was able to keep the details under wraps until they met with teachers.

Goracke told the teachers the school was no longer a “priority” school and was ready to announce the new status, when Superintendent Sherri Broderius interrupted to tease guesses out of the teachers on how high the number actually was.

Guesses of 32 and 40 were shouted out. One teacher meekly offered 75.

While reaching those percentage levels would have gotten ACGC off of the priority status “they would not get us to our new status of a reward school,” said Goracke, who could barely contain her excitement as teachers cheered.

Those cheers grew even louder when they were told the students had achieved nearly 95 percent of the possible points.

“I just can’t thank you guys enough,” said School Board Chairman Joel Gratz, confessing he “got chills” as the announcement of the new reward status was made to teachers.

Gratz said it’s always been great to be part of ACGC, “but it’s even cooler today.”

Broderius said the passion, hard work, research, use of data and best practices of every staff member helped “to create a new system and new strategies” that has “obviously been transformational.”

The district was required to create a student improvement plan but did not receive the $500,000 federal grant sought to put the plan into place.

Goracke said using targeted services and after-school activities, implementing math and reading goals, an increase in staff training — and assistance from a state-supported center that helps schools mine data and use new teaching tools — all helped the district make improvements.

But she said it was the “shared leadership approach and group effort by everybody” that was the key element.

Goracke said the process was a “blessing in disguise” because it helped the school refocus and successfully implement a positive education plan that will continue into the future.

Although the big news at ACGC was at the elementary school, there was also a celebration at the middle school, which maintained the “reward” status that it received last year and — at 99.38 percent — was just a whisper away from reaching 100 percent of all possible points.

“It’s just a great day for ACGC,” said Goracke. “It’s so fun.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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