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Roosevelt honored for academic excellence

When Roosevelt Elementary School received word this past fall that its students had received a "five star" rating (out of a possible five) in both reading and math, it was cause to celebrate.

First, because the Detroit Lakes grade school was one of only 78 in the state to receive two five-star ratings in 2006.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the double "five-star" designation marked a significant turnaround in academic achievement for the school.

Just three years earlier, Roosevelt had received a "three-star" rating in both reading and math assessment, which basically meant the school was meeting federal standards for "adequate yearly progress," or AYP. However, as Roosevelt Principal Jerry Hanson put it, that rating was "a low three stars."

"We were very close to a 2 (star rating)," he said in December. Schools receiving a 2-star rating in either reading or math are considered to not be meeting AYP standards.

"It (a 2-star rating) is kind of a slap on the wrist from the state," Hanson said. Since then, however, the teaching staff has "just worked their butts off for three years to really make some changes that were better for the kids."

They succeeded -- and that effort has not gone unrecognized.

In early January, the school was informed by the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation that it would be receiving a School Spotlight Award from the Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation.

"It's a state award that recognizes schools that have (reached a level of) high student achievement, despite some challenges," Hanson said.

For Roosevelt, the challenge lies in the fact that approximately 45 percent of its students qualify for the federal "free and reduced" lunch program (i.e., come from low income families). By contrast, only 35 percent of Rossman's student population qualifies for free and reduced lunches (Rossman received four stars in both reading and math, which is still considered above state average).

One of the keys to Roosevelt's turnaround, Hanson noted, has been the belief of its staff that the students were capable of doing much better.

"We've raised our standards to a higher level -- and the kids and parents have responded," Hanson said. "We've made learning important here at Roosevelt -- and our kids and parents understand that."

Acting DL Schools Superintendent Lowell Niklaus encouraged Hanson and the staff at Roosevelt to apply for the MAEF Spotlight Award, Hanson said Tuesday.

The award will be officially presented at Roosevelt Elementary on Friday, Feb. 16, at 2:30 p.m. Dave Hochhalter, president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, will be making the presentation on behalf of MAEF.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454