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State grant will boost elementary education at ACGC

GROVE CITY -- A report released this week by the Minnesota Department of Education provided good news and bad news for the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

The good news is that the elementary school in Cosmos -- ACGC South -- was among the highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. It was one of 128 schools ra-nked in the Reward Sc-hools category.

ACGC North Elementary in Atwater, however, was one of 42 schools that were among the 5 percent most-persistently low-performing Title I schools in the state. That group is called Priority Schools.

The term "Title I" refers to federal funding granted to schools to improve the academics of disadvantaged students, such as children in high-poverty schools or with limited English proficiency.

Superintendent Sherri Broderius said Tuesday she was not surprised that ACGC South was listed as a Reward School but was surprised ACGC North did not fare as well.

She said the district has always met the Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind program.

But the state got a waiver from No Child Left Behind and this most recent report under the state's new Multiple Measurement Rating system reflects a new accountability structure for educational measurements that includes school performance in proficiency, growth, progress in closing achievement gaps and graduation rate.

"It's a different measurement now," said Broderius.

The new report is for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years but does not reflect educational measurements from this year.

Broderius said the district has worked hard to improve scores and implemented a new reading program called "AIMSweb" in the K-2 grades this year that includes weekly computerized reading advancement tests. There are plans to offer that program to third- and fourth-graders next year.

The new state report comes at a sensitive time for ACGC, which recently decided to close ACGC South school in Cosmos because of low enrollment and financial concerns. Starting this fall all K-4 students will attend class in Atwater.

Broderius said she met with staff from both elementary schools Tuesday morning to discuss the report and to get their input for implementing best educational practices to improve opportunities for all elementary students.

She said the Minnesota Department of Education will be "very supportive" in the district's efforts to make the grade.

Because of the Priority School status at the Atwater school, the district will receive a grant to implement changes, such as reducing class sizes

Although the exact amount of that grant is not known, Broderius said the promised financial assistance has allowed the district to rehire two tenured teachers and seven probationary teachers that were given notice of termination last month.

At its meeting Monday night, the school board voted to rehire the nine teachers. The extra staff will help the district keep classroom sizes small next year.

Broderius said the Education Department will "guide us to get what's most important for the kids," including research-based practices that should help the school meet the new standards.

In other action Monday, the school board approved the preliminary 2012-13 budget of $9.8 million and approved a literacy grant. The board also adopted a new wellness policy that includes removal of soda pop from all vending machines, more healthful options in the a la carte lunch menu and not taking away recess from K-4 grades as a form of discipline.

Carolyn Lange

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

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