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Lots to Celebrate in Pequot Lakes Schools

posted Sep 28, 2018, 2:26 PM by Brenda Williams
There has been much to celebrate in our Pequot Lakes Schools community over the last months. Our enrollment K-12 continues to climb at impressive rates. Pequot Lakes High School was recognized as one of the top schools in the region by the readers of the Brainerd Dispatch. Here at the Middle School, there’s a little-known recognition that was brought to our attention when the MN Department of Education released the 2017-18 MN Comprehensive Assessments results to the general public.

Pequot Lakes Middle School received a “2018 School of Excellence” award in the category of “Reading Growth Overall.” To speak simply, this means that students in grades 5-8 made very notable gains over their previous year’s achievement and performed in the top 5% of schools statewide. With approximately 2,400 schools in the state, that puts us in pretty elite company.

As we celebrate our school’s progress, I also know that as a principal, I often field questions from parents about the importance or relevance of standardized testing of our children. Outside of the obvious measurement tools rating individual student achievement in proficiency scales (exceeding, meeting, partially meeting, and does not meet standard), student performance acts as an indicator of student learning as a part of our 5-8 system. Your child’s performance, factored as a point of data into their graduating class, is perhaps the most well-vetted indicator of student learning that will occur over the course of a school year.

As we gear up for our first professional development day in 2018-19, we will be diving deeply into our MCA results (in Reading and Math and Science as well) to look where we can continue to improve our instructional practices. We use long-term trends in student performance on these assessments to provide valuable feedback to our educators about the scope and sequence of their instruction, and ultimately reflect upon the effectiveness of their pedagogy. The test itself is broken down into segments, providing our educators with the ability to look explicitly at student achievement on specific state content standards. We are excited about this day, and how we can use our student performance from last year to inform our instructional practices in the present.

As I pen this article I am reminded that there is a fine line between “tooting our own horn” and being proud of the achievements of our students and our staff. We entered the school year with a modo of “Effective and Reflective Teaching.” This year’s focus encourages our staff to live in constant reflection upon the effectiveness of their craft, frequently asking questions like, “What student evidence shows me that my students truly understand the material?” or “Clearly some of my students have already demonstrated mastery of content. What kind of enrichment can I provide these learners?.” This is what top-performing educators do, and it is the expectation of every educator at PLMS.

Being recognized in the top 5% of schools in the state in reading growth is something we are proud of. It undoubtedly sets a high bar of expectations for our school and the other core departments. These stellar results help us to recognize that we should feel fortunate to work with phenomenal families who make learning a top priority, that we are grateful for our hard-working teachers, and ultimately that our middle school staff are thankful for our students that show up and give their best version of themselves every day.

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal