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Park Rapids testing below state average

Overall, Park Rapids students tested just below the state average in reading and math, according to MCA-II results.

District-wide, 69.17 percent of Park Rapids students were proficient in reading, compared to 71.92 percent of students across the state. In math, 58.96 percent of Park Rapids students were proficient while the state average was 63.86 percent.

Century Middle School Assistant Principal Jeff Johnson presented the results to the Park Rapids School Board Monday night.

Administration has begun looking at trends to figure out how to improve.

"I need to find out what exactly are the standards that Park Rapids students aren't doing well at," Johnson said.

The individual student results will be released Aug. 10. After those results come in, more analysis and research can be done, he said.

Generally, the younger grades, third and fourth graders, did better than the state average.

To work on improving scores, Johnson said a realignment of curriculum needs to be done more often, perhaps yearly, to match up more with what students are being tested on.

Administrators also will look at what other districts are doing to prepare for these tests, which are taken each spring.

Johnson wants to educate parents more about the tests. Test results and information about the tests will be given out at this year's open house, he said.

Century Middle School Principal Bruce Gravalin also wants to look at allocating more resources toward helping improve test scores.

Across the state, math and reading MCA-II test scores increased or stayed relatively steady for most grades in 2009, according to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The biggest gain in the annual testing was made in 11th-grade math, with about an 8 percent increase over 2008 results.

"Minnesotans can be proud of the progress that has been made toward improving student achievement in several areas," Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said. "Our challenge now is to build upon our successes and continue to address existing challenges in order to prepare every one of our students to succeed."

MCA-II results

The math and reading MCA-IIs meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which requires that all students be proficient by 2014. The assessments are administered in reading in grades three through eight and 10, and in math in grades three through eight and 11. This spring, approximately 501,000 students took the math and reading MCA-IIs, which measure student performance on the Minnesota Academic Standards. Those standards define what students should know and be able to do in a particular grade and are developed in partnership with Minnesota educators.

On the MCA-IIs, each student earns a score in one of four achievement levels: Does Not Meet Standards, Partially Meets Standards, Meets the Standards, or Exceeds the Standards. Students who meet or exceed standards on the MCA-II are considered proficient.

In 2009, the biggest increase on the MCA-II was in 11th-grade math, with nearly an 8 percent increase. This can be attributed to the new, more rigorous graduation requirement, which provided an additional incentive for students to perform well.

"It's no accident that the biggest increase in scores took place in the grades where we saw the greatest increase in student expectations," Commissioner Seagren said. "The 11th-grade math scores show that when we raise expectations, students will meet the challenge."

Fourth-grade math and sixth-grade and 10th-grade reading scores all increased by about 3 percent, while fourth-grade reading increased by about 2 percent. Most other results remained fairly steady when compared to 2008. There was also a small decrease in fifth-grade reading results.

This year, MDE expects an increase in the number of schools and districts that will not achieve AYP. The increase will be the result of only slight improvements in proficiency and the required increases in the reading and math AYP targets to meet the federal government's requirement of 100 percent proficient by 2014 under NCLB.

A few years ago, Minnesota education leaders and MDE developed commonsense recommendations to improve No Child Left Behind. The recommendations were then sent to federal education policymakers and Minnesota's congressional delegation as they considered the future of NCLB. Congress has yet to reauthorize NCLB. MDE plans to again forward those recommendations to the new administration.

"While we strongly support its worthy intent, we understand the growing frustration with No Child Left Behind," Commissioner Seagren said. "As Congress and the new Administration weigh its future, we hope that they will take into consideration our recommendations to mend but not end No Child Left Behind."

Reform key to future success

Over the last several years, Governor Tim Pawlenty has led efforts to improve student achievement by creating more rigorous academic standards, a stronger accountability system, and programs to improve teacher effectiveness.

"The foundation for Minnesota's future is a 21st century system of education," Commissioner Seagren said. "We will continue to work with Minnesota parents and educators to achieve that goal."