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LP-A earns excellence award

Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School is validated as a 2008-2009 Minnesota School of Excellence.

The Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association (MESPA) developed this research-based program aligned with national standards in leadership, vision, student learning, the culture of adult learning, data and decision-making and community engagement.

MESPA endorses schools whose principal, staff, students, and community -- working as a team -- demonstrate the desire to strengthen education by successfully undertaking the Minnesota School of Excellence program. This school improvement process, recognized by the Minnesota Department of Education and National Association of Elementary School Principals, involves a systematic self-study, development of a school improvement plan, and implementation of the plan based on demonstrated results.

"In this time of high stakes testing, the quality of our school communities can far too easily be misrepresented by the single-purposed federal testing requirement," said P. Fred Storti, MESPA executive director. "High stakes tests, such as the MCA II tests used to evaluate Minnesota schools for Adequate Yearly Progress as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, offer a snapshot in time with no context.

"One high stakes test should not determine a school's public stature and cannot adequately assess its educational effectiveness. Elementary and middle level schools provide the foundation for children's lifelong learning, and the Minnesota School of Excellence program clearly connects the education process to student learning," Storti continued.

"The Minnesota School of Excellence Program takes schools on a meaningful analytical endeavor, engaging staff and community in purposeful conversations about their school," said Matt Dorschner, Minnesota School of Excellence Program chair.

"It is the premier way to identify current strengths and areas needing improvement for a school. The reward of the analysis is two-fold. First, it takes measure of where a school is and reveals where it needs to go. Second, it creates a wonderful opportunity for communities to celebrate their school -- and to connect to their role in the school's accomplishments."

A leadership committee conducted the Lake Park-Audubon School of Excellence self-study, including: Sam Skaaland -- elementary principal; Mary Softing -- sixth grade teacher and parent; Bonnie Iverson -- fifth grade teacher; Kristen Frank -- first grade teacher and parent.

In acknowledging their Minnesota School of Excellence recognition, Skaaland said: "We are proud to be recognized as a Minnesota School of Excellence. This recognition is a credit to all who are associated with our school, and we will all share in celebrating the accomplishment. It is a demonstration of great teachers, caring parents, and outstanding students working together to provide a foundation for success."

Skaaland says of LPA's philosophy toward education, "Part of our LPA Elementary School Mission Statement states that we promote, 'the desire to learn so that each student may make progress toward achieving his/her potential.' We clearly state through the word 'each' that we believe all students can learn. We demonstrate this belief daily in our instructional methods and delivery. We expect high standards from our students, and we work very hard to help them achieve those standards."

LPA Elementary staff members focus first and foremost on student welfare, as is evident in every aspect of the school day starting with the bus ride. Bus drivers are residents of the district and parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of students. Everyone who works with the children genuinely cares about them and wants them to have a great school day.

The kitchen staff serves students breakfast with a smile, and works very hard to make lunchtime special with celebrations and activities throughout the year. Custodians and office staff consider the children's welfare as their number one job. All elements of the school community are encouraged to communicate with each other and the administration to provide the best environment for the students.

Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School uses a variety of data sources to measure performance. These include MCA testing, AIMS web testing and data collection, Read Naturally testing and placement, Accelerated Math testing and placement, Scott Foresman tests for guided reading placement, curricular resource tests, special education tests and work sampling.

Teachers use both formal and informal assessments along with teacher observation to make decisions about student progress. Student work is collected by teachers at all grade levels and shared with parents and students at conferences. Staff believe that hard data doesn't always measure attitude, effort, or behavior which can contribute substantially to achievement levels.

In addition to Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School, eight other elementary schools achieved recognition as 2008-2009 Minnesota Schools of Excellence: Delano Elementary School, Delano; L'Etoile du Nord French Immersion School, St. Paul; Hubert Olson Elementary School, Bloomington; Indian Mounds Elementary School, Bloomington; Pinewood Elementary School, Mounds View; Sheridan Hills Elementary School, Richfield; Valley View Elementary School, Bloomington; Washburn Elementary School, Bloomington.