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Students prepare for state testing

By Anna Erickson

April is the start of statewide testing. The Park Rapids testing schedule begins April 7 and continues through May 15 at Century School.

Century Assistant Principal Shawn Andress said the testing is for grades 3-8 and includes reading, mathematics and science depending on the grade level.

Results will be immediate with the online component, she said.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) are state tests in mathematics, reading and science that meet the requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They are given every year to measure student performance against the Minnesota Academic Standards that specify what students in a particular grade should know and be able to do.

The MCAs are used to find out how well schools have aligned curriculum and instructed students in the Minnesota Academic Standards in mathematics, reading and science. The mathematics and reading assessments are also used in federal school accountability measurements.

Schools use the information to improve classroom teaching and learning. Teachers and principals look for areas where students do well so they can reinforce the ways they teach these skills. They also look for areas that need improvement so they can increase instructional time or modify their instruction.

The State of Minnesota and ESEA requires that all students in public schools participate in the statewide assessment program. Mathematics and reading tests are given in grades 3-8 and high school (students in grade 10 take the reading MCA and students in grade 11 take the mathematics MCA). The science MCA is given to students in grades 5 and 8 and in the high school grade when they take a life science or biology course. With very few exceptions, all public school students in the above grades take the MCAs.

Students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan may be eligible for accommodations. Some students may be eligible to take the MCA-Modified, an alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards in mathematics and reading.

The Minnesota Department of Education offers parents tools to make sure students do their best. The following are MDE suggestions to help students get ready for a statewide assessment:

General preparation

n Share your enthusiasm and interest in reading, mathematics, and science with your children.

n Make sure students have had the opportunity to be become familiar with the format of the test.

n Item samplers help students become familiar with the format of the test and provide examples of the types of questions that are on the test. You can find item samplers for each grade and subject of paper and online assessments on the Minnesota Assessments portal at View the item samplers on the Minnesota Assessments portal.

n For online assessments, student tutorials show students how to navigate in the test, use online test tools, and answer different types of test questions. View online student tutorials on the Minnesota Assessments portal.

n Encourage students to answer all test questions.

n Have students get a good night’s sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast before taking a test.

n Provide students with a study area.

n Encourage students to practice good study habits. Students should set aside time every day for homework.

Reading tests

n Read to students and encourage them to read to you.

n Have students try crossword puzzles in the newspaper.

n Encourage students to read the newspaper and general interest magazines.

n Discuss the events and stories you read about in the newspaper.

Mathematics tests

n Encourage students to use mathematics every day. They can practice by creating a grocery budget, explaining charts and graphs from newspaper and magazine articles, dividing food portions, using rulers to measure objects, measuring a recipe or adding prices on a shopping trip.

n Play games that involve numbers or computation.

n Encourage students to connect what they are learning in mathematics class to their hobbies, other classes and everyday life.

Science tests

n Use science articles from news publications to show that science is an ongoing, active process.

n Have students use inquiry skills by participating in science competitions, fairs and other activities.

n Explore science outside the classroom – nature centers, zoos and science museums.

Using a calculator

Talk to your child’s classroom teacher to find out how calculators are typically used in the classroom. Students can’t share calculators with other students during the Minnesota assessments or use any calculator manuals. You can get more information on using a calculator for testing from your school.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561