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Two local schools earn Reward school designation

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Carver Elementary and Valley Crossing Community School are the Little Engines That Could.

The Title I schools earned the Reward school designation from the Minnesota Department of Education, for academic achievements in state exam efficiency, student growth, graduation rates, and closing achievement gaps. They are among the top 15 percent of schools that receive Title I funding, allocated to schools with high levels of students dealing with poverty.

Carver Elementary, a District 633 school that houses many students from Woodbury, has been recognized for the fifth time.

Gena Abrahamson, principal, said that the school culture and mindset make a difference for Carver Elementary.

"We're going to do what needs to be done," she said. "This is a such a dedicated and positive staff that every child can learn. It's truly the staff."

Carver Elementary focuses on intentional staff development, data, formative assessments that help teachers make in-the-moment decisions, and celebrating successes and failures. Student growth is put first and foremost, Abrahamson said.

Eight of the nine elementary schools in District 622 receive Title I funds. Carver Elementary had an 80.66 percent Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR), and an 84.90 percent Focus Rating (FR).

Valley Crossing, with a 78.41 percent MMR and an 83.87 percent FR, was recognized for a sixth and final time.

Valley Crossing, previously a collaborative between districts 622, 833 and 834, was purchased by District 833 and will no longer qualify for Title I funds.

"This is Valley Crossing's sixth year of receiving that award, so we wanted to be sure to recognize them," Julie Nielsen, assistant superintendent, told the South Washington County School Board.

Future Award

Carver Elementary also won the 2016 Minnesota's Future Award, which comes with a $50,000 check.

Abrahamson was floored, she said. "It just doesn't happen in public education."

Minnesota Business Partnership, which gave the award, chose Carver Elementary without the school even applying for it, because of its success in helping all students succeed, the organization said in a press release. Carver Elementary is an innovative school of diversity.

Carver Elementary has evolved in recent years from a white middle-class school to one with many social-emotional needs. Sixty percent of the students at the school benefit from free or reduced-price lunches. Still the school consistently outperforms state standards.

"We've adopted many programs that celebrate diversity, and I think that's one of the reasons that we are succeeding," Abrahamson said.

As District 622 employees wait for Election Day, they are bracing for voters' answer to a referendum request that is on the ballot. Abrahamson said she doesn't want to lose the school's targeted interventions or data-driven focus, including mini-meetings to discuss data on student progress. Both of the programs come at a cost.

"You just never know with budget cuts," Abrahamson said. "It never ends."

While the $50,000 wasn't immediately earmarked for a certain program, Abrahamson said she feels the school will put the money to good use.