A pair of Southwest schools has completed a program that has schools reflect on their strengths and identify areas for improvement.
Armatage Montessori School and Lyndale Community School completed the Minnesota School of Excellence program in August. The grades pre-K–5 schools in the Minneapolis district were two of eight to complete it this year.
The School of Excellence program has schools assess themselves on six national standards, including use of data, quality instruction and community engagement. The school communities complete a self-study, analyze the results and develop a plan to build on their strengths and address areas of improvement. They continuously assess ongoing results from implementing the plan.
Schools that receive validation have had data-driven conversations about a high-quality learning experience and have plans to make it a reality, program chair Sam Richardson said in a release.
In an interview, Richardson said that the certification honors and validates schools that take the time to engage in the process. He added that Armatage and Lyndale were exceptional at how they embraced diversity and made efforts to include families that represented many backgrounds.
“It was clear from their self-study reflection and work that they understand how student learning is really an individual process and that instruction needs to be differentiated for all learners,” he said.
The release noted that Armatage fosters a community of learners through collaboration by teachers, support staff and administrators. The staff meets every four weeks in teams to look at student achievement levels, essential learning needs and strategies for implementation. Other staff teams meet every four weeks to share best practices and assess the alignment of the K–5 curriculum, instruction and Montessori materials.
Teachers also meet individually with administration and curriculum specialists to discuss standardized test data.
In the release, Armatage Principal Joan Franks said the School of Excellence process showed that the differentiation inherent in the Montessori process is a strength of the school. Differentiation is the idea of accommodating instruction and assessment for individual student needs.
Lyndale Principal Mark Stauduhar said in a release that the process has challenged the school to look at its traditions, policies, practices and procedures. It’s also allowed the school to highlight its good work, he said.
The Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association administers the School of Excellence program. Validation lasts for seven years.
Multiple Minneapolis schools have received the honor in the past few years, including Hiawatha, Howe, Kenny and Lake Harriet community schools.