Ashby ranks first in state middle school proficiency gainsPublished 10:57am Wednesday, July 31, 2013
While the halls remain silent over summer vacation, Ashby principal Shane Tappe welcomed pleasing news this past month.
Ashby Secondary School was ranked first in the state last year for middle school proficiency gains, according to the education group MinnCAN. The group collects MCA scores from reading and math and calculates the rankings. Ashby 8th grade students, on average, scored 43 percent higher between the 2010-11 and the 2011-12 school year.
“I want to say I was somewhat surprised, but not really,” Tappe said. “I’ve witnessed the last year how hard our staff work and how diligent they are with each and every student.”
Tappe suggested several reasons for the improvement, but highlighted the school’s philosophy, small class sizes and use of technology as reasons for the continued success of its students.
“There’s three things with education: rigor, relevance and relationships,” Tappe said. “If you can develop those three things, as far as staff to students, you’re going to provide results like this.”
The grade level was also an important factor for Tappe. Having children ready for high school’s higher standards showed that Ashby students are prepared for further prosperity in their education.
“It shows that our students are building a foundation for educational success,” Tappe said. “Early high school can be a very daunting couple of years. The results are showing our kids are ready for that.”
From the classroom perspective, Ashby seventh- and eighth-grade teacher Heidi Kent spoke at length about the school’s technological initiative. While she said a combination of factors contributed to the success, she credited classroom technology as an important part of how teachers reach students.
This past year, Ashby 7th and 8th grade students worked with a netbook cart in the classroom. Kent said she taught with the netbooks half the time her students were in class. The technology allowed Kent to personalize her lessons to individual interests and abilities.
“I think kids learn best when it’s personal and interesting to them,” Kent said. “I always like to think learning for kids is when they are so involved that they don’t even know they’re learning.”
Besides the netbooks in the 7th and 8th grade classroom, another set has been ordered for the 6th grade to use this September. The 1st and 2nd grade classes use iPads for learning, and each student in the high school will use laptops this year.
The district is also turning to the Schoology.com, linking students and teachers online. Educators can post notes, learning material and assignments and students can turn in their work virtually.
The instant information and feedback technology provides has brought more opportunity in Ashby classrooms, and Kent said she will continue to use it to expand the traditional classroom setting.
“It’s not just having the technology, it’s using it correctly,” Kent said. “It’s not a matter of getting every kid an iPad. That’s not going to help unless you use it properly to enhance your curriculum.”
Both Tappe and Kent also credited the Ashby community with the gains, especially the work of the Ashby Education Foundation. Most of all, Tappe said the ranking showed the hard work of the school’s staff and students.
“Our staff and students should be recognized,” Tappe said. “They’re the ones in the trenches. They’re the ones that deserve this for all the hard work that they’ve done.”