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South Washington County Schools

Focus on personalization bolsters district success in 2017

South Washington County Schools’ strategic plan, adopted in 2016, set out to engage, motivate and empower each learner. As we begin the new year, we reflect on the successes our schools have earned for our students and the work that remains to be done.

In September, 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. From creating a process continually reviewing the school improvement plan to allowing teachers and staff the opportunities to pursue professional development, the team focused on ways to ensure all students grew in their time at school.

School leaders used data to identify student needs and presented them with opportunities to learn in a fun, flexible setting. 

“Our team is passionate about making a difference in the lives of students and improved growth shows that work is paying off,” said Blume-Thole. “We will use this milestone as momentum as we continue to ensure all of our students have the tools for success. Each student is carefully considered. Intentional planning and personalization is what results.”   

In November, Newport Elementary School was identified by the Star Tribune as a school that was “beating the odds” with proficiency rates identified by the 2017 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in math besting expectations and reading meeting expectations.

In December, analysis conducted by the New York Times of the Stanford Education Data Archive found that districtwide students are growing in their learning at a rate that is outpacing 11 of 12 comparable metro districts.

“Our successes in 2017 show personalization working at its best. There is no one-size fits all solution for education. We’re trying to figure out how we can provide all students with the opportunities for growth,” said Brian Boothe, Director of Professional Development and Accountability.

Administrators are taking these successes into account as they re-evaluate the next steps in the strategic plan for 2018 and strive to create more opportunities for all students to grow into the future.