Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) scores show that overall student test scores in the state declined during the pandemic. Area superintendents share how their schools did on the assessment, along with plans to help students who fell behind catch up.

Park Rapids Area Schools

“The 20-21 school year brought many challenges including state testing,” said Lance Bagstad, superintendent of Park Rapids Area Schools. “Testing in itself was a very interesting process last year.

“We recognize the high and low points in the data and acknowledge that Park Rapids student performance was similar to the state trend in that we saw a decline in the scores from the previous testing year.

“This brings an opportunity for our schools and staff to study the data, plan and work to meet each individual student’s needs.”

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Nevis School

“Relatively speaking, Nevis Public School students had a good year academically during the statewide assessment despite the influence of COVID-19 on the learning environment,” Superintendent Gregg Parks said. “The MCA III Reading test has been a strength for our district in the past and this year was no different. Districtwide, 62 percent of our students passed the Reading MCA III compared to a state average of 53%. Our students exceeded the Minnesota State Average at every grade level. This is a remarkable achievement for our students and our staff. Our 6th grade students had their best year ever on the MCA III with 80.5% passing and exceeding the state average by over 25 points. Our students exceeded the state average by 6% on the Math MCA III. Significant for our school is our passing percentage was actually the second highest in the history of taking the Math MCA III. Nevis students exceeded the state average on the Science MCA III by 6.2% with 49.3% achieving proficiency.”

However, Parks said the assessment picture was not all rosy.

“We fully anticipated the impact of the pandemic on the percentage of students proficient on the MCAs,” he said.

The percent of students proficient on the MCA III reading as a district compared to 2019 were down 5.9 percent. The percent of students proficient on the MCA III Math were down 8.5 percent and the percent of students proficient on the MCA III science were down 13.8 percent. “The MCA IIIs allow us to evaluate our curriculum and identify potential areas needing improvement,” he said. “The 2021 scores exposed a gap between the students receiving free and reduced lunch and the non-free and reduced lunch students. These gaps widened 2-8 points this year, indicating we need to focus attention on this subgroup as we investigate methods to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our students. “

Parks said the district will continue to use data collected from the 2021 MCA III to drive change. “The data provides an excellent starting point for our teachers to use in our professional learning communities using a process of the team analyzing data, creating goals, collaborating, and adjusting teaching practices,” he said.

In addition, Nevis School is putting additional emphasis on filling learning gaps. This past summer, six weeks of summer school was offered to students in grades 1-8, to help reinforce math and reading skills and reduce the traditional “summer slide.”

During the upcoming school year, three teachers and two paras will be working with elementary students to fill learning gaps through Title and ADSIS programming. In the high school, Monday night math help will continue to allow students additional math support. Also, in seventh and eighth grade students will have one additional quarter of math support during school. In addition, seventh-grade students will continue their year-long study skills class where they work on developing ways to improve in studying, reading and math.

Menahga School

The MCA test is not required for students in the Menahga School District. “We use other testing so we don’t really do much with the MCA anymore,” Superintendent Kevin Wellen said. “We have a lot of families that opt out of the MCA. We’re unique in that we tell parents that the MCA tests don’t tell us what we need to know and that we’re not pressing them to take it. Students take it unless parents fill out a form not to have them take it.”

Wellen said of the students who took the MCA their results were better than the state average. “The state was at 44 percent and we were above 50 percent,” he said. “But the state participation was 76 percent and ours was 38.5 percent.”

The Menahga district uses other testing that measures student growth. Fastbridge testing is used in the elementary and Star testing in the upper grades. “In the elementary, all students test in the first couple weeks of school and again in January as a mid-year check,” he said. “Then they take it in the spring to see if they have hit at least a whole year of growth. Those tests actually measure student performance and growth for every student versus trying to get an analysis of the district,” he said.

The Star test also measures each student’s level of mastery.

“If a student has not reached mastery, we look at interventions to fill in those gaps,” he said.

The district offered two weeks of summer school in June and two weeks in August for students who wanted a boost up.

In high school, the credit recovery program is also available through the Alternative Learning Center.

Wellen said he recently talked to the elementary principal and learned that students who were in school in person almost all met or exceeded their goals for the year.

“We had about 10 percent in distance learning at the beginning of last year, but after Christmas it was down to about 5 percent.”

In addition, more than 200 students were homeschooled last year. Those students were not required to take the MCA. “They take the test the parents decide,” he said. “We won’t know their progress until they take our tests on the first day of school.”