Jefferson Elementary School has been labeled as one of the highest performing schools in Minnesota under new guidelines implemented as part of the state’s waiver from federal No Child Left Behind standards.

As part of the waiver, all schools receiving Title I funds — state and federal money given to schools with high numbers of children who qualify for free and reduced lunches — must be evaluated yearly based on the institutions’ levels of proficiency, growth and reduction in the achievement gap between students in poverty and of color. Graduation rates also are considered in the assessments of high schools. Of the 849 schools this year in the state receiving Title I funds, 127 — including Jefferson — were rated as reward schools, the highest-performing 15 percent in the state, according to a report released Tuesday by the Minnesota Department of Education.

There were 85 schools rated as focus schools, or the 10 percent most contributing to the achievement gap, and 42 schools labeled as priority institutions, meaning they are the 5 percent most persistently low-performing, according to the report.

Lewiston-Altura Elementary School, Houston Elementary School, Mabel-Canton Secondary School, Ridgeway Community School, St. Charles Elementary School and Wabasha-Kellogg Elementary School were also all rated as reward schools. Jefferson and Washington-Kosciusko Elementary School are the only Winona Area Public Schools this year receiving Title I money, according to the report. W-K was not identified as a reward, focus or priority school.

The new multiple-measurement system is meant to provide a more fair and accurate way of assessing the success of schools.

“Under the previous system, there wasn’t really an opportunity to highlight schools that were doing really well,” said Keith Hovis, deputy director of communication for the Minnesota Department of Education.

Schools either were rated as passing or failing based solely on students’ scores on standardized tests. The state plans to identify the practices being used in reward schools and implement them in lower-performing schools, possibly creating partnerships between the entities, Hovis said.

Jefferson principal Mathew Nelson said the recognition is a reflection of the hard work of teachers and staff at Jefferson.

“Its truly a great school with a good educational community who cares about helping kids,” he said. “We plan to continue to use this momentum to continually improve.”

Making the grade

Other area schools looked at using the new Minnesota Multiple Measurements Rating:

--Lewiston-Altura Elementary School — Reward school

--Houston Elementary School — Reward school

--Mabel-Canton Secondary School — Reward school

--Ridgeway Community School - Reward school

--St. Charles Elementary School — Reward school

--Wabasha-Kellogg Elementary — Reward school

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