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    CME is first Montessori school to be named a Minnesota School of Excellence 

    CME sign photo FOREST LAKE, MINN. - Central Montessori Elementary in Forest Lake became the first Montessori school to be named a Minnesota School of Excellence, according to an announcement Friday from the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association (MESPA).

    Every elementary school in Independent School District 831 has now received this award, and Central Montessori (CME) is the third district school in the past four years to be validated as a School of Excellence. Wyoming Elementary and Lino Lakes Elementary received their awards in 2010-2011 and 2009-2010, respectively.
    "Central Montessori Elementary is a prime example of quality Minnesota education," said Fred Storti, Executive Director, Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association. "The school strives to work and function as a professional learning community, successfully aligning student learning with six national standards that encompass Learning Centered, Diverse Communities, 21st Century Learners, Quality Instruction, Knowledge and Data, and Community Engagement."
    "It is a true honor to be identified as a Minnesota School of Excellence," said (former) Central Montessori Principal Kelly Lessman. "The process brought the staff and Central Montessori Elementary families together and gave a framework to talk about the excellent education we provide for students at Central Montessori Elementary in Forest Lake."
    Unlike most Montessori schools, Central Montessori is part of a public school district, allowing it to provide a tuition-free education for its students and also free transportation. The school currently serves 124 students in grades K - 6.
    Perhaps the most unique aspect of Central Montessori is the classroom set-up. The school is divided in multi-grade groupings for first through sixth - kindergarten students are educated together in one class. Students in grades 1-2-3 are grouped together as well as students in grades 4-5-6. Multi-grade classrooms allow students to continue with the same teacher and many of the same classmates for multiple years, developing strong relationships with peers and adults. Multi-grade classrooms support individual differences and natural diversity among students because they allow the development of relationships, which research has demonstrated is fundamental for learning.
    "For many families, a Montessori educational program is a perfect fit for their children," Lessman said. "A Montessori program allows the students to really build upon their innate curiosities and creative abilities in order to learn in a way that best suits them. This program has shown a lot of success over the years. Our excellent teachers ensure that our students are well prepared for success in junior high, high school, college and into their adult careers. In fact one of our former students is currently studying Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)."
    The Minnesota School of Excellence Program was established in 1986, combining the findings of current research on effective schooling with the practical on-site experience of working principals and education staff. It offers a comprehensive school improvement process that results in student learning growth. This school improvement process focuses on six national standards and involves a systematic self-study, development of a school improvement plan, and implementation of the plan based on demonstrated results. Since the program's inception, 161 schools have earned Minnesota School of Excellence validation. The validation remains in effect for seven years.
    "The MESPA Minnesota School of Excellence Program is a valuable, standardized process that engages all stakeholders in meaningful conversations about their school and is a program in which all schools have the opportunity to participate," said Laura Pierce, Minnesota School of Excellence Program chair and principal of Akin Road Elementary in the Farmington Public Schools district. "Utilizing the self-study process provides instructional leaders with the data, knowledge and tools to increase the capacity of collaborative data driven decision-making with an outcome of increased academic achievement."
    Only seven elementary schools in Minnesota were validated as Minnesota Schools of Excellence by MESPA for the 2012-2013 school year. In addition to CME, the other schools were Barnum Elementary School in Barnum, Robert J. Elkington Middle School in Grand Rapids, J.A. Hughes Elementary School in Red Lake Falls, Kennedy Elementary School in Mankato, Nett Lake Elementary School in Nett Lake, and Westwood Elementary School in Bloomington.
    "We're extremely proud that MESPA has chosen Central Montessori as a Minnesota School of Excellence, and I can say without hesitation that this school is well-deserving of this honor," said District Superintendent Linda Madsen. "Every year, Kelly and her staff put in countless hours making sure that the students at CME are provided with nothing less than the best education possible. They worked very hard for this achievement. "CME has always been sort of a hidden gem in our school district," Madsen said. "It's a small school, located at our Central Learning Center, that really exemplifies our district's committment to providing students and families with a vast array of great educational options and opportunities."