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2013 State MCA scores are released

The Minnesota Department of Education released the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores on Tuesday.

These yearly tests, required by state and federal law, are used as one tool to help schools gauge students’ progress in meeting expectations on Minnesota state standards for reading, math and science.

Across the state, reading scores were lower than previous years. This was mirrored in scores in local school districts.

However, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said a new reading test was used this year that was harder and districts can’t compare these scores to previous years.

A follow-up newspaper article with test scores from Hubbard County’s school districts will be in Saturday’s Enterprise.

Minnesota has been a national leader in setting higher standards and assessments. This past year was a first for Minnesota students and schools taking a new reading test aligned to career- and college-ready standards, and over 95 percent of students taking their math test online.

“We can be proud of the fact that Minnesota is a pioneer in setting high expectations for students, and in using online testing that give more timely information to teachers and parents,” Cassellius said. “It’s important to look at today’s tests results for what they are: a snapshot in time that tells us how students are doing in mastering our state standards. What is needed now is to focus our efforts and stop moving the goal posts so teachers and students have a consistent target to hit.”

In reviewing results, Cassellius noted two important changes for the 2013 tests:

  • 2013 is the first year students took new tests based on more challenging reading standards. Minnesota adopted more rigorous standards to help ensure students are career and college ready upon high school graduation.
  • In 2012 students who took the MCA III math test were given the option of taking the online test up to three times and using their highest score. In 2013 the state’s flexibility waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required MDE to provide students with only one opportunity to take the test, one likely reason for the slight dip in this year’s math scores.

Cassellius cautioned that the true measure of progress does not hinge on year-to-year ups and downs, but on trends established over several years.

“Anytime a new test based on new standards is given, a drop in scores is to be expected,” said Cassellius. “But setting high expectations is the right thing to do. If we want our students to compete in a global economy, we must continue to stretch and hold ourselves accountable for helping students meet higher standards.”

“Until every child is achieving at their highest potential, we have work to do,” said Cassellius, noting that the achievement gap between white students and students of color continues to exist. “We will continue to fuel the sense of urgency to accelerate gains across the board through our pre-K investments, all-day kindergarten, our focus on third grade literacy, eighth grade algebra, and improving high school graduation rates.”

Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature’s collaborative efforts to reform testing are already demonstrating a positive impact on Minnesota students. With the elimination of the math Graduation Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD test) requirement, over 20,000 students who may have previously been denied diplomas based solely on a single test are now able to graduate. Recent changes made by the state legislature commit the state to forge ahead with online assessments by the 2015-16 school year, despite recent disruptions in online testing that some Minnesota students experienced this past spring.

“Moving to better tests that provide teachers with timely, accurate feedback on students’ progress requires an online environment. And while no online system is perfect, reaching our goals requires these data systems to help us drive aggressively toward results,” said Cassellius. “As we enter the season of test results reporting, we’ll have many data sets to look at and gauge how Minnesota students are doing,” she continued.

ACT results released last week placed Minnesota students at the top of the nation for the eighth straight year. In September, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores will be released, a test given biannually to fourth and eighth graders in every state to gauge math and reading performance at the national level and rank states. The state’s Multiple Measurement’s Ratings (MMR), which provide information on how individual Minnesota schools are performing, will be released on Oct. 1.

“These tests, while important, are just one piece of the overall picture of how students and schools are doing,” Commissioner Cassellius said. “Nothing can replace talking to your child’s teacher, reviewing their daily work and visiting your child’s school. We should stand proud of our students’ success, use the data to identify challenges, and then do the hard work it takes every day – not just on testing day – to ensure every child is successful.”