The Minnesota Department of Education is recognizing over 500 schools across the state as top performers in multiple areas of progress in school performance.

Under the new North Star accountability system, Mankato, Cleveland, and St. Clair school districts performed better than the statewide average in all areas.

Commissioner Brenda Casellius said for 20-plus-years, test scores were relied on too heavily as the sole measure of school performance and, “Now we know that there are other things that impact student achievement like having art or music or dance classes. Or being sure principals are be supported well — you have counselors and social workers.”

Under the new system, Casselius explained that the state Department of Education will offer support over the next three years in different target areas including graduation rates or if, “The school is having difficulty with attendance, or if the school is showing some difficulty with a specific student population, for instance, students still needing to learn English — we can go in and strategically support those schools in that one area.”

Cassellius said the state will be working with 485 schools to determine what’s working and what’s not.