Last week, students in grades four through seven had reason to celebrate.

Last week, students in grades four through seven had reason to celebrate.

On Aug. 1, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released statewide assessment results showing that Sleepy Eye Public School (SEPS) students in grades three through six edged above the state average for reading and math.

Before students began the testing last year, superintendent John Cselovszki promised students that if they performed well on the tests, the teachers and staff would host a celebration in honor of them.

When the results came back this August, Cselovski knew he had to live up to his promise. On the fifth day of the new school year, students were bused to the Sleepy Eye Family Aquatic Center for an afternoon of fun and swimming.

"The kids are taking this seriously," Cselovszki said. "Our staff also understands the importance of teaching to the standards and they are teaching with purpose." 

In math for 2012, all grades tested at SEPS were above 80 percent proficient. The state average in math ranges from 58.8-75.6 percent proficient.

In reading for 2012, SEPS average was 84 percent proficient while the state average was 59 percent proficient.

Compared to years past, 2012 math scores jumped almost 10 percent from 2011. Smaller gains were made in reading from 2011-2012, still showing an upward trend.

The increase in reading scores comes just two years after adoption of a more rigorous 2012 reading standards, as well as a strategic focus on reading well by third grade spearheaded by Governor Dayton and Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius.

"The upward trends that we are seeing show that we are on the right path to prepare our students for success," said Commissioner Cassellius. "As teachers, principals and districts continue to sharpen their focus on reading well by third grade; I believe we'll continue to see even greater gains across all grade levels as time goes on." 

Media Specialist and Title I teacher, Nancy Moore, said with the curriculum writing the staff has been working on and with new interventions in place, teaching to the standards is becoming a well oiled machine.

"The kids were excited and that was fun to see," she added.

Commissioner Cassellius said the state's sharp focus on all students, particularly diverse and disadvantaged students, is beginning to build momentum and close gaps.