By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, COKATO, MN The state science test scores are in, and many local school districts were above the state average.
“We still are above the state average, but our scores aren’t as high as they were last year,” Dassel-Cokato School Superintendent Jeff Powers said. “I’m not exactly sure why that is.”
At the high school level at Dassel-Cokato, scores dropped from 62 percent proficient to 51 percent. Eighth grade stayed at 49 percent, and fifth grade rose from 50 to 53 percent.
Statewide, 46 percent of all fifth, eighth, and 10th grade students passed proficiency levels on the test this year, compared to 40 percent last year.
Because the tests are still fairly new, the significance of the data is still unknown.
“We don’t have much history to go off of,” Powers said. “We haven’t had a chance to establish a pattern.”
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments-II science exams were given for the first time last year.
“It’s an online, interactive test,” Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Superintendent Brad Sellner said. “It’s a much different format in terms of what the kids are used to.”
The biggest jump for HLWW was at the fifth grade level, with a 13 percent increase.
“It’s really positive to see an increase in test scores Sellner added.
“Our scores were very good,” Delano Public School Superintendent Jon Sweet said. “Three things contributed to that. One, our curriculum is aligned with state standards. Two, we have good instruction, good teachers. Third, the parents here are supportive and interested in their children’s education.”
Students in Delano all scored above the state average. In fifth grade, half of the students were at or above state expectations for proficiency. Eighth graders had a 63 percent proficiency level. High school students scored 20 percent higher than the state average, with 70 percent proficient.
Last year, Delano fifth graders scored 7 percent higher than the 2008-09 school year, but eighth grade had an 8 percent increase this year, and 10th grade improved by 4 percent.
“We did really well in science,” Watertown-Mayer Public School Superintendent Karsten Anderson said. “We’re pretty pleased with the results.”
Tenth graders at Watertown-Mayer High School had a 74 percent proficiency score.
One factor that impacts test scores is students’ effort, Powers said. Because the science tests aren’t required for graduation, some students don’t try as hard.
“There’s no motivation to try hard on these tests,” Powers said. “They’re tested so often now.”
“I think what needs to change is we need to be testing less,” he added. “There are too many required assessments. We give up a lot of time, just giving the tests.”
Because the tests are given on computers, it also limits the computers that are available for other students during that time, he said.
“We will continue to work on doing a better job,” Powers said. “Each year, schools are going to continue to make progress.”
“We’d like to see the scores keep going up,” Sellner said. This year, the science curriculum at HLWW will be reviewed. The school will take a look at test requirements before purchasing textbooks, and equipment, he said.
“We just continue to offer staff development opportunities for our teachers,” Sweet said.
To see a breakdown of statewide and individual district results, go to the Minnesota Department of Education web site at www.education.state.mn.us.