MSA wins national "blue ribbon" school awardThe hours of studying that the students and teachers have put in at Minnesota Math and Science Academy has paid off in a big way.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
The hours of studying that the students and teachers have put in at
Minnesota Math and Science Academy has paid off in a big way; the school has been designated a blue ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education for their continued superior student achievement.
“The award is about the achievements of the students and teachers,” MSA director Paul Simone said. “ This is all about the teachers and the students — it’s everybody who has decided that this is the school for them.”
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools that are either academically superior or have dramatic gains in student achievement. 313 schools, eight in Minnesota, received the award.
Schools will be honored Nov. 3 at a ceremony in Washington D.C. where each will receive a plaque and a flag signifying their blue ribbon status.
In order to be recognized for superior student achievement, a school’s testing scores must be in the top ten percent on state or national assessments. The school’s must also achieve “Adequate Yearly Progress” as defined by the state.
“It’s not that our kids scored high, it’s that all of our kids scored high,” Simone said. “That speaks to the amount of hard work the students put in, the amount of hard work the teachers put in.”
Simone said receiving the award was a tremendous honor since the students and the teachers deserve to be recognized for all of their hard work, especially in a school of their size.
“One of the things that comes with being a small school is not necessarily having a high profile,” he said. “You’re not geographically large, so that type of small presence carries over into all aspects of the school.”
Since MSA houses only 300 students, teachers are able to focus more on students individually and with more attention than at schools with 2,000-3,000 students, Simone said.
“The school size plays a huge role in what we’re able to accomplish because we are only charged with a small number of kids — that environment is going to give you better opportunity for success,” he said. “You’re giving teachers an opportunity where they can actually go beyond delivering information or delivering curriculum, you’re giving them an opportunity where they get to know their students, you’re giving them an opportunity where they can monitor their standards and that leads towards student success.
“What attracts people here is our size, what keeps people here is our curriculum.”
The MSA way
MSA is a public charter school that serves students grades 6 through 12 and focuses on intense math and science courses, while also on challenging arts and humanities courses.
MSA’s curriculum requires that students achieve success in many core areas of education — math, science, English and social studies — in courses that range from British literature to economics to calculus to physics.
“Being a blue ribbon school doesn’t mean you’re the best school for everybody,” Simone said. “Being a blue ribbon school means you do a superior job with the students that you have.”
On average, 90 percent of MSA’s students move on to college, whether that is a four-year university, a small private college or a technical college since their education at MSA has given them the necessary tools to achieve success in college, as well as make the decision of whether or not college is right for them.
“It’s not necessarily when you graduate from Math and Science Academy you are better prepared for school, it is you have a broader base to make a wider range of decisions of what you want to do after you graduate,” Simone said. “But, if you do complete our graduation requirement, you will have on your transcript, what the vast majority of colleges want.”
Simone said he has every confidence in the students, the teachers and the parents ability to make MSA a blue ribbon school for years to come.
“It’s asking yourself ‘What do I need to do to be successful?’”