School named among state's top 5% for Progress Toward English Language Proficiency
North Elementary was recognized by Minnesota Department of Education’s North Star system for being among the top five percent of all schools in the state for Progress Toward English Language Proficiency among its English learner (EL) students.
The Department of Education’s North Star system was designed using extensive feedback from diverse stakeholders across Minnesota to satisfy the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the state's World's Best Workforce law (WBWF).
“In the past, schools in need of support were usually the only ones identified publicly, but the North Star system is the new accountability system put in place to provide extra support for schools in need and also recognize the top five percent in certain areas of proficiency,” North Principal Darin Doherty said. “It replaces legislation that had been put in place previously by programs such as No Child Left Behind.”
Doherty credits Stella Meixner, North’s EL/ESL (English Learner/English as a Second Language) teacher, and each of the homeroom teachers for North receiving this prestigious honor in the area of Progress Toward English Language Proficiency.
“Stella has always been a huge advocate for breaking down those barriers that our EL students have faced in acquiring English reading and writing skills,” Doherty said. “Her work with those students has been amazing and the connection she has built with our teaching staff is a tremendous benefit for our EL students.”
The "average progress toward target" is the average amount of progress English learners made towards their targets. The statewide average is 67 percent while Saint Peter Public Schools, district-wide, is above that at 70.6 percent. More specifically, North has had 92.6 percent of its EL students make progress towards their targets in 2017-18.
“This recognition is like receiving a card sent from my former student years ago. It is completely unexpected but simply warms my heart,” Meixner, who has worked with District 508 since 1994, said. “I feel very honored to work as a team with Mr. Doherty and all the dedicated teachers at North. I also feel very blessed with wonderful students, who are willing to work hard and have fun with me on their learning journey.”
Meixner currently works with 61 EL students at North, and she works with 59 of them daily. Each EL student has varying levels of English-speaking ability when they begin classes at North, including several with no English skills. Meixner provides support for those students to improve those skills which will enhance their educational experience in the classroom.
“It always brings me joy to watch students develop their language skills,” Meixner said. “I especially enjoy teaching students how to read. For example, one of my Somali students, who had never attended school in Somalia before coming to the U.S., had a really hard time learning to read. After working with him for months, he finally figured out how to sound out the words. We were so excited that we both jumped up and down like two overjoyed grasshoppers. I will always savor moments like this. It is extremely rewarding and magical in a way to unlock a brand new world for a student through reading.
“The EL students have very diverse abilities and needs,” she added. “They all have different literacy backgrounds, levels of education, and ways of learning. It's challenging to differentiate the instruction to meet all their unique needs. In an effort to close the achievement gaps between ELs and their peers, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by what needs to be taught within the limited time I have with them. Therefore, I try to incorporate fun ways to engage the students and use time efficiently to maximize their learning.”