MCA results bode well for area schools

When it comes to the state’s MCA tests, area schools are sitting above the state average.

Independent School District 834 proficiency rates on the state’s science assessment climbed at fifth- and eighth-grade levels and Stillwater Area High School math scores made the biggest jump ever recorded at the school, according to a news release from district spokeswoman Carissa Keister.

“Some of the best news from this year’s state assessments comes from our science scores,” said Chris Balow, the district’s coordinator of assessments and evaluation. “Our elementary and junior high students performed significantly above their peers across the state. We attribute much of this success to our focus on STEM for all of our students – starting in kindergarten and into high school.”

The MCA tests measure students’ progress toward state academic standards in science, mathematics and reading as required by federal guidelines. The assessments are direct measures of student performance. This spring, students in grades three through eight across the state completed the MCA tests in reading and math, 10th graders took a reading test and 11th graders also took a mathematics test. Science tests were given to all students in fifth and eighth grade, as well as to high school students, which is typically taken in 10th grade.

“Overall we were pleased with the results. We are among some of the highest proficiency school rates reported in the state,” added Jon Gutierrez, St. Croix Preparatory Academy executive director.

Some technical difficulties were also experienced during the test, which Gutierrez notes did have significant impacts on many of his students individual scores.
State averages came in at 61 percent proficiency on the math test, 58 percent on the reading test, and 52 percent on the science test.

According to the ISD 834 release, the math test underwent a change this year. Last year students could take the math exam as many as three times and report only their highest score. This year students could only take the test once, which resulted in score declines across the state as well as in the Stillwater area.

In math, 73 percent of ISD 834’s students were proficient compared to their 75 percent overall schools score in 2012.

SCPA reported a 77 percent proficiency rating on the math test when they looked at the overall school scores. This is a slight decrease from their 78 percent overall score last year.

In science, 61 percent of ISD 834’s students were proficient compared to 52 percent at the state level. Growth levels from last year, according to the district’s press release, were three times higher for fifth graders than the state average, and eighth graders grew at levels close to double that of their peers. The number of high school students proficient on this year’s exam, however, dropped slightly this year compared to last year. Meanwhile science scores at SCPA have decreased to a 69 percent proficiency rating from last years reported 75 percent.

Across the state and at both SCPA and ISD 834 reading scores took a hit. This is a result of a new, more rigorous reading test that was distributed this year.

Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, said in a news release: “Anytime a new test based on new standards is given, a drop in scores is to be expected. 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.”

The state average was a 58 percent proficiency rating. ISD 834 reported a 70 percent proficiency rating while SCPA reported an 81 percent proficiency rating on their results.

“We were told by the Minnesota Department of Education to expect a score that was 15 to 20 points lower than what we achieved last year,” Gutierrez said. “Our results are in line with that and the more rigorous testing.”

“It’s a new test, measuring new standards,” Balow said, “and these results cannot be compared to previous years. This year’s scores set a new baseline for us to look to in future years. Results, however, do show a need for us to invigorate literacy efforts based on the higher expectations of our new state standards.”

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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