"Is the Minnesota School of Excellence Program for you?"
On March 18,
2010, as president of our association, I had the good fortune to speak at the
Lino Lakes Elementary Minnesota School of Excellence celebration. Principal Jan
Masterson and the school staff created a lovely celebration that included tours
of the building, punch and cookies, and a lively presentation from the students.
I had a chance to meet wonderful parents and teachers, even some that I taught
with when I was in the Forest Lake district.
In 2000, during
my fourth year as principal of Washburn Elementary in Bloomington, we were
looking for ways to affirm the great work that teachers, parents, and students
were doing in our school. The Minnesota School of Excellence Program provided a
structured, researched, and proven process that helped us accomplish our goal.
Perhaps you have
been intrigued by the thought of trying the MESPA Minnesota School of
Excellence Program at your school. Involvement with this school improvement
process is one of the best decisions I have made as a principal. Let me share
some insights from my experience going through the validation process twice and
being the state chairperson for the Minnesota School of Excellence Committee
for four years.
Early in my
career, I always thought it was impressive to see a school sign that identified
a community of learners who had received Minnesota School of Excellence endorsement.
What I didn’t realize then was the strength of a school improvement program
that examined the entire school community, as opposed to making decisions based
solely on students’ assessment data. With this program, grounded in national
research on high performing schools, MESPA has created the premier opportunity
in the state for validating the greatness of your school.
Now to the good part…
components of the Minnesota School application are: a school self-study using
national standards to reveals strengths and weaknesses in your school; and a
narrative that documents how you have successfully built on strengths and addressed
weaknesses determined in the self-study. Our final document was approximately
fifty pages with lots of charts and examples of data.
This is a group
process and you need to develop a strong school-wide team. If you are
interested, Matt Dorschner, chair of the state Minnesota School of Excellence Committee,
or your division representative on the committee will be willing to help you
with strategies and filters that can encourage the process to go smoothly in
application is submitted to the Minnesota School of Excellence Committee and
validated – and don’t be discouraged if you are asked to expand your
improvement process before you receive validation, you will begin thinking
about your school-wide celebration.
The celebration may be as elaborate or as subtle as you wish. The key is
to create an experience that reflects your school’s signature.
School of Excellence validation status for your school brings benefits that you
might not think of as you are going through the process.
In my experience…
Teachers in the
school are proud to be in a Minnesota School of Excellence and hold themselves
to a higher standard because of it.
Parents in the
school realize the benefits of their volunteering and involvement and
participate more because of Minnesota School of Excellence.
We realize fewer
incidents of misbehavior and disruption because students are proud of being a Minnesota
School of Excellence.
are school shopping notice our Minnesota School of Excellence plaques and
banners in the school and choose to enroll their children because they believe
we are an exceptional school.
partners are more readily willing to affiliate their images with us because of
our Minnesota School of Excellence status.
It is easier to
encourage students to take pride in our school while taking annual assessments
seriously and “Do their best” because of our Minnesota School of Excellence status.
I can assure you
without a doubt that the benefits and recognition for your teachers, parents
and students are well worth the energy it takes to become a Minnesota School of
Excellence. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Matt Dorschner at
952-556-6710; email@example.com. Enjoy
the journey to excellence!