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Schools report MCA-II test results

Minnesota students in grades three through eight and grade eleven improved their scores in math this spring as over 426,000 students took the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) in math and reading.

While reading scores stayed relatively constant for most grades, the eleventh grade results continued their upward trend for the second year in a row, the Minnesota Department of Education reports. 

Grade 10 reading scores have improved 10 percentage points since 2006, with most of the gains coming after the Legislature implemented the high stakes graduation requirement for reading starting in 2008.

After significant gains in 2009, the grade eleven math results showed only a modest improvement. The legislature eliminated the graduation requirement for high school math in 2009.

"The hard work of students, parents and teachers in our statewide focus on math is really starting to pay off with these steadily improving test results in elementary and middle school," Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said.

Park Rapids sees gains

Park Rapids Schools superintendent Glenn Chiodo reported, overall, the students' test scores reflect improvement in areas that needed upgrading a year ago.

This includes math scores, due in large part to "wholesale changes in the math curriculum."

But he also sees "areas where we fell short."

The test, he said, "is a moving target on an annual basis." Staff zeroes in on an area where the levels of proficiency appear weak, but next year, the questions change.

"It's frustrating," he said. "We work hard to make the proficiency levels set by the state, but it's constantly changing."

"Overall, our test scores are very, very competitive with surrounding districts. But you should not judge a district on a snapshot, a single test. This is not a true measure of the district's levels of achievement and performance."

The test, he noted, does not measure individual growth, as compared to the Northwest Education Assessment (discontinued in Park Rapids due to budget constraints).

The NWEA test is administered in the spring and fall, with results back in 24 hours, as compared to the MCA, which takes months. Teachers using the NWEA are able adjust curriculum to meet needs, he said, and can measure progress by testing two or three times a year.

The Adequate Yearly Progress results show Century Elementary's proficiency rate at 89 in math with a target of 82 , the goal met. The elementary students also exceeded the 80 target index in reading, achieving 85.

Middle school students' index rate in math was 70, with a target of 73; the index rate in reading was 76 with a target of 79.

The high school math proficiency index was 42, with a target of 52 and 85 and 74, respectively in reading.

Nevis scores up

The Minnesota Department of Education's embargo on releasing information on the MCA test results found Nevis principal Jodi Sandmeyer a bit frustrated at the June school board meeting.

She had good news to share: The math and reading programs implemented in recent years are paying dividends. But due to the embargo, her news would have to wait until early July.

Ninth graders scored 100 percent proficiency in the writing test, which is based on spelling, sentence structure, grammar and other literary skills.

Nevis students earned higher scores in the reading test than the neighboring districts of Park Rapids, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Laporte, as well as the state, third and eighth grades the exceptions.

While above the state average, Laporte and Park Rapids third graders, respectively, claimed a higher proficiency percentage than their Nevis counterparts.

The eighth grade reading score exceeded neighboring districts' but was below the state average.

The Nevis reading scores, with the state proficiency average in parenthesis are third grade, 78 percent (76); fourth grade, 81 percent (73); fifth grade, 84 percent (76); sixth grade, 78 percent (72); seventh grade, 83 percent (66 percent); eighth grade, 61 percent (68 percent); 10th grade, 89 percent (75).

"We look at individual students from year to year," Sandmeyer said of tracking reading progress. This is done via three standardized tests, including the Northwest Education Assessment. Scores determine if the student will be recommended for individualized Title services.

The curriculum, she explained, is aligned with state standards, both in math and reading. "Teachers use the data to determine how to best service the student."

With the exception of third and eighth grade, all the Nevis student math scores were above the state proficiency percentages.

And for the first time since the test's inception, the 11th grade math scores were above the state average, Nevis with a 44-percent proficiency, compared with the 43 percent state average.

Math proficiency scores were third grade, 81 percent (83); fourth grade, 81 percent (77); fifth grade, 73 percent (69); sixth grade, 73 percent (69); seventh grade, 66 percent (64) and eighth grade, 47 percent (59).

"Teachers have worked very hard and the kids are taking it seriously," Sandmeyer said. "We've seen huge gains in the last few years," including ACT test scores.

Next year, students in grades three through eight will be taking the math tests via computer, optional in 2011 but mandated in 2012.

On a district wide basis, 66 percent of Nevis students were proficient in math compared with an equal percentage statewide.

The district had a 78 percent proficiency percentage in reading, compared with 72 percent statewide.

Menahga making improvements

Menahga Superintendent Mary Klamm reported the elementary MCA-II scores.

For reading, 74 percent of the elementary students were proficient, compared to the state average of 72 percent. For math, 69.91 percent of elementary students were proficient compared to 65.89 percent at the state level.

"We consider being within 3 percentage points of the state as being equal to the state scores," Klamm said.

For the high school, 70 percent of students passed reading while the state average was 72 percent. Math testing at the high school was below the state average, with 53 percent of students passing the test, while the state average was 66 percent.

"It's important to note that we have improved our math two years in a row," she said. "We're focusing our efforts to work on that curriculum and continue making improvements."

Klamm said she understands that Menahga needs to continue improving in math and sees that happening.

"We're giving our teachers the opportunities and tools to teach," she said. "They're receiving professional development training."