Principal Nancy Gulbranson informed the Spring Grove School Board at its Jan. 22 meeting that its secondary school was honored as a "2012 Celebration School."

She read a statement from Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius, "More than 100 celebration eligible schools applied for this distinction. Your selection is a direct reflection of the gains your school has made and the tireless efforts you and your staff have directed toward improving outcomes for your students."

The honor is for Celebration Eligible (CE) schools, which are ranked just below the highest-achieving "Reward" schools. Districts are recognized for their good work and improvement on Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR) from the Minnesota Department of Education.

Not all schools received a rating under this system, which replaces the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings.

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen pointed out, "The MMR is supposed to be used to compare you to you (your previous scores). We have seen HUGE gains in math in the secondary level during the 2011-12 school year."

In addition, the elementary school was ranked as a Reward school.

"It's a huge honor," Udstuen exclaimed, "We are the only school in southeast Minnesota with both of our schools honored."

The MMR represents the alternative that state officials presented to the U.S. Department of Education when they asked to opt out of the requirements of "No Child Left Behind."

Teachers are given specific data on each student. They find out how an individual performed on standardized tests last year, whether he or she improved over the course of the year, and how much that student should be expected to learn in the coming year.

The department also uses the collective scores for each school in its ranking system. It will replace the accountability provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

This system still considers student test scores, but also takes into consideration how much students have improved over the year and how well poor and minority students perform at a school.

Under this new system the highest performing schools are either "Celebration Eligible" or "Reward" schools.

Other celebration reports

In her monthly "Celebration Report" to the school board, Gulbranson noted that Randi Mehus and Josh Olerud are the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Triple "A" (Academics, Arts, Athletics) Sub-Region winners for 1A.

The male and female students were two of 17 nominees from nine schools in southeastern Minnesota. They now advance to an award's reception in the Twin Cities.

Last year, the duo received the MSHSL's prestigious ExCEL award. Gulbranson had informed the students earlier in the day of their honor, "I said, 'You guys did it two years in a row!' They both have outstanding credentials. They are very excited to be honored at an upcoming basketball game."

Three members of the sixth-grade Math Wizards team, along with their coach Deb Morken, were present to tell the board about their recent hosting of a meet at the school and the individual and team awards that the students have earned.

Madison Milbradt, Kai Bjerke and Takoda Boyd talked about the history of the program, the various medals, plaques and ribbons the students had earned this season, and how they were looking forward to their next (and last) meet on Feb. 4 in Chatfield, where 185 kids from over 10 southeastern Minnesota schools will gather.

Look in next week's Herald for more news from this school board meeting.