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Column: Academic year was one of achievements

By Keith Jacobus, South Washington County Schools superintendent

The month of May ushers in a number of end of the year celebrations that highlight and honor the achievements of our students. At the high school level, these celebrations culminate with our graduation ceremonies on June 3.

We have so much to be proud of in our district. Our students distinguish themselves academically, athletically, artistically and socially, through their selfless community service. They also distinguish themselves personally through their kindness toward others and their willingness to make our schools a positive place for all to enjoy and learn.

We have much to be proud of this year and I would like to highlight just a few of our successes during the past school year:

Bridging the gap

In September, Bailey Elementary School was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. The highly selective honor was only given to 342 schools nationwide in 2017.

Bailey was recognized for meeting the program's exemplary high performing school's standards, meaning the school was among Minnesota's highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

Also in September, the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner recognized five of the district's schools for their work to reduce achievement gaps by 2017. East Ridge High School and Red Rock Elementary School met the goal in reading, Hillside Elementary School and Liberty Ridge Elementary School met the goal in math and Cottage Grove Elementary School met the goal in both categories.

Across the state, only 25 schools reached the goal of reducing achievement gaps in math or reading and only six of those schools, including Cottage Grove Elementary, met the goal in both categories. Theresa Blume-Thole, principal of Cottage Grove Elementary, says it was a goal only reached by a collaborative effort of her team, with a focus on personalized learning.

In January, Newport Elementary School Principal Rich Romano was named 2018 Educator of the Year by the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce. Just a few months before that, the Star Tribune recognized Newport Elementary as a school that was "beating the odds." This was due, in large part, to proficiency rates identified by the 2017 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment that showed the students were exceeding expectations in math and meeting expectations in reading.

AVID

At the beginning of March, Park High School became the first AVID National Demonstration High School in Minnesota and Woodbury Middle School became an AVID National Demonstration School and a Schoolwide Site of Distinction. That means District 833 now has three schools that are AVID National Demonstration Schools, which is the most for any district in the Upper Midwest. (Oltman Middle School was named an AVID National Demonstration School in 2016).

AVID is an acronym that stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is a program designed to help students who have the ability to advance their academic career through college, but, for various reasons, have not been able to realize their potential and seriously consider going on to high education after they graduate from high school.

We have implemented the AVID program in our schools for a number of years and have seen tremendous success in helping our students not only graduate, but secure acceptance and scholarships to colleges and universities around the country.

We know these examples, and the hundreds of other successes we have highlighted in our newsletters throughout the year, could not have been achieved without the strong positive partnerships we value with our parents, guardians and community members. Those partnerships, along with our incredible staff and students, make us the great school district we are, of which we can all be proud.

I want to thank you for your support, guidance and willingness to help us provide the highest quality education to all of our students. I hope you enjoy the end of the year, the upcoming summer weather, and time with your children.

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