Annette Freiheit is the principal for Hayfield and Brownsdale elementary schools. Photo by Tara Lindquist
By Tara Lindquist
Hayfield Elementary School was one of 48 schools in the state of Minnesota recognized as a Celebration School, by the Minnesota Department of Education.
The Celebration School designation is a part of Minnesota's federal accountability movement that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. Under Minnesota's program, schools are assigned a Multiple Measurement Rating based on four areas: students' proficiency and growth, a school's progress toward reducing the achievement gap and a school's graduation rate, which is not used at the elementary level.
Celebration eligible schools are the 25% of schools directly below those designated as Reward Schools, which are the top 15% of Title 1 schools. There were 240 Minnesota schools that were identified as celebration eligible. The schools are then able to apply for Celebration status.
"In the application, we really highlighted the fact that we have been building our interventions when it comes to instructional gaps with students," Principal Annette Freiheit explained. "We, along with the other ZED schools, have been working on the intervention methods for the past seven years, to really target where students are having a gap in instruction and need some extra help." She added this model has cut down on referrals to the special education department.
Both Hayfield and Brownsdale Elementary Schools have been working on identifying students that are showing some signs of falling behind in certain areas of school subjects, working with a group of general education teachers and identifying what students are struggling with and where extra instruction is needed. Teachers then work with students in small groups no larger than seven students to help them understand the material. Once a student is understanding the material they no longer work with the small groups.
"The staff really deserves the credit for this award," she said. "They've all worked well together and have come up with interventions for students that have worked." She added this has been a more effective approach for helping kids that are at risk of falling behind.
If the interventions do not work, then the student's case is moved on to the problem solving team, they will look at the case and suggest different interventions or then refer them on to special education services to see if they are in need of those services.
"I think this will help us get back to the true sense of what special education is meant to be," she added. "It helps us gauge if they are having learning gaps or experience gaps, if they really need the full spectrum of special education or if they just need that little bit of extra instruction." Along with the intervention program the school has also added an enrichment program for kids who are further ahead in their studies.
The teachers have been working hard on doing their own research on how to help their students that have the instructional gaps and don't understand parts of the curriculum. "They've all worked together as a team it's really brought the two elementary schools closer and has helped with communication." She also feels that the teachers in Hayfield are getting to know the students that attend Brownsdale Elementary before they enter the Hayfield Elementary School because of this program.
"It's the staff, students and support of the parents that have worked to make this program as success."
In a letter Dr. Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of the Department of Education wrote,
"As a former teacher, principal, and superintendent, I appreciate your tireless dedication to the students you serve. It takes focus and commitment to change systems and put strategies in place that yield the kind of results your school has shown. Your entire team deserves sincere congratulations for this outstanding accomplishment"