Nov. 20, 2006

School test results are in, test scores dropped statewide

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

A new test called the MCA-II was introduced statewide to students in grades 3 through 8, 10, and 11 this past spring, along with new academic standards.

Its results were recently released, and gives schools new levels of academic achievement to reach for.

“The new MCA-II tests provide a more accurate assessment of how our students are performing,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. “These results will help us take additional steps to improve student achievement in Minnesota,” she said.

“We have raised the bar with more rigorous standards for Minnesota students so that we are better prepared to compete in the global marketplace,” said Governor Tim Pawlenty.

“The results of these new tests give us a clearer picture of how students are performing, and serve as a basis to measure future improvement,” he said.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Law requirements, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) represents a certain level of student achievement on statewide tests, and every year the achievement level for making the AYP is raised, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

High school results

For simplicity, this article will only focus on high school test results.

The MCA-II math assessment was taken by 11th graders, while the MCA-II reading assessment was taken by 10th graders.

Statewide, the results for 11th grade math indicated that about 30 percent of students were proficient, according to the Department of Education.

Part of the reason for the low number was due to students leaving nearly 31 percent of the questions blank for questions that needed a written response. Students needed to score 37 out of 65 possible points to be considered proficient.

HLWW’s response

“Overall, we’re pretty happy with the results. The state is telling us we can’t compare this year’s results with last year’s because of the changes in the test,” said Brad Sellner, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School Principal.

“Looking at area schools, I think we fit right in,” said Sellner. “We take the results seriously. They’re not as timely as we’d like them to be, but once we get the scores we can make some adjustments in the curriculum,” he said.

“The MCA-II test doesn’t count towards graduation so the state is looking into moving the Basic Skills Test, which students are required to pass in order to graduate, into the MCA-II test to try to get students to take it more seriously,” Sellner explained.

Lester Prairie’s response

“I think tests are a good tool for us to measure how our kids are doing based on standards, and relating them to our curriculum,” Joe Miller Lester Prairie School Superintendent said.

“With a new test,” Miller said, “it is pretty typical that the first year no one does well. If we all scored 80 to 90 percent, the test would be a worthless tool. Of course we would have liked to have done better; we want to do the best that we can.”

As for the school not meeting the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement, Miller stated that, “We have a small segment that has been identified that did not have as much progress as they should have,” which hurt our score.

Miller has told the Herald Journal in the past that a small group of struggling students typically can have a big impact on small schools when it comes to state tests.

As for the Star Tribune’s statement that Lester Prairie will not be penalized because it does not receive federal Title 1 aid is false in the fact that the school does indeed receive Title 1 aid, Miller explained.

Miller discussed the overall consensus that students didn’t take the test as seriously as everyone would have liked because the student’s individual score is not part of a graduation requirement at this time, but will in the future.

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