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ACGC thrust into spotlight

GROVE CITY — What was recently termed a Superman-like leap in student performance at the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Schools has attracted far more than local attention.

The Minnesota Department of Education has chosen ACGC and Brainerd as Minnesota’s two nominees for possible national recognition as Blue Ribbon Schools.

Dr. Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of education, called ACGC Superintendent Sherri Broderius with the news just over a week ago. It came shortly after the district had also learned that the Humphrey Institute was recognizing its achievements with its Innovation Award.

Broderius called the most recent Blue Ribbon nomination an honor to all of the students, parents, staff and residents in the district.

“To me it’s an affirmation of all the innovative work we are doing here,’’ Broderius said.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, part of the U.S. Department of Education, is described on the program’s web page as a program that honors public and non-public schools where students perform at a very high level or where students are making significant gains in academic achievement.

Schools are nominated by the top education official in each state.

ACGC will now be telling its story to staff with the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Broderius said the district expects to learn in October whether it will be formally recognized as a Blue Ribbon school.

The school had gained attention last fall when its Multiple Measurement Ranking scores soared. The district’s students had collected only 5.4 percent of the possible points in assessments conducted in 2011. Last year, the students had earned 94.97 percent of all possible points.

The superintendent said the district has undertaken a variety of innovative efforts to make the improvements possible.

She credits the Tuesday through Friday four-day class schedule with helping make some of the progress possible. It has allowed teachers to join for ongoing Monday staff development sessions. It is an opportunity to identify education needs to be addressed, and most importantly, to develop prescribed and deliberate strategies to meet them, she explained.

Broderius and Elementary Principal Kodi Goracke announced the Blue Ribbon nomination to staff members last week. “Wow, what do you say?’’ was the initial response from staff, said Broderius.

She said the discussion quickly turned to how to take the progress to the next level. “You can’t let up,’’ Broderius said.

Blue Ribbon Schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, according to the program’s web page.

The “Exemplary High Performing” schools are among their state’s highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

The “Exemplary Improving” schools have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and demonstrate significant progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

In the 31-year history of the award, the department has bestowed the Blue Ribbon award on 7,000 schools.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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