SLEEPY EYE - The Sleep Eye Elementary School band performed holiday songs Friday as students, staff and parents walked into the high school gym to celebrate the elementary school reaching the state's highest academic achievement category for the first time.
"It's a celebration day that took a long time to come...The elementary school is now a Reward School," said District 84 Superintendent John Cselovszki. "The school board began working on this five years ago when the school was targeted (by the Minnesota Department of Education) as needing improvement. We threw everything out and started brand new, re-writing the curriculum."
The school's sixth-grade math class scored in the 96th percentile in MMR (Multiple Measurement and Focus Ratings). The elementary school closed the achievement gap for students of color and white students, low-income students and others, scoring 73.2 out of a possible 75 points, ranking 18th among several hundred state schools, Cselovszski said.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius speaks in the high school gym Friday at the Sleepy Eye Elementary Reward School Celebration.
"This is one piece of the puzzle," Cselovszki said. "Now we have the challenge of maintaining our improving our status. I think we can achieve 100 percent. Can we do this?"
"Yes," answered students.
Sleepy Eye Mayor Jim Broich said one of his jobs is recruit former residents or newcomers to move to Sleepy Eye. "You've given me a new tool for this," he said. "A quality educational system is important. I'm taking to two clients about moving to Sleepy Eye. You'll hear more about that in the coming months."
A number of sixth-grade students reflected on the school, listing their favorite pastimes as studying math, reading books, respecting elders, having fun, working hard, staying focused, learning from helpful teachers, listening, having a good attitude, eating well and getting plenty of sleep, asking for help if they need it, and seeing it, believing it and attaining it.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius called the school's "reward school" status really great." "None of us would be anywhere without a teacher. Thanks to parents for supporting schools and ensured their children are at school on time," she said. "Test scores are not everything. Art, music, and going outside to play are important too. We need to educate the whole child. The Minnesota Department of Education puts a value on test scores but a greater value on developing the whole child."
The Sleepy Eye Elementary School Choir concluded the celebration with music. Cselovszki cited choir members for going "above and beyond," practicing outside regular school hours. An overhead, looping, slideshow photographic presentation highlighted students during the celebration.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.