Delano Supt. John Sweet credits scores to student, teacher, and parent efforts
By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Once again, students in area school districts show high levels of proficiency in math and reading, with Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment-Series II (MCA-II) test scores well above the state average. To see a breakdown of test results, click here.
The Delano School District ranked highest in the area, with overall reading proficiency at 87 percent, and overall math proficiency at 82 percent. Minnesota’s average was 72 percent for reading, and 64 percent for math.
“Our students continue to score well, which is a credit to the abilities and good efforts of our students,” Delano School District Superintendent John Sweet said. “It’s a combination of good student effort and support from teachers and parents.”
Watertown-Mayer School District also scored above average, with 76 percent proficient in reading and 65 percent proficient in math.
Jon Anderson, Watertown-Mayer middle school principal, said he looks at individual scores as well as overall proficiency levels per grade. The Minnesota Department of Education provides the raw data, but “we, as the school, look a little deeper than that,” Anderson said. “Let’s take a look at the names behind the numbers.”
Anderson said his school tries to identify areas that students need to improve and work toward those goals.
Last year, for example, there were 18 seventh graders who were within five points below proficiency and 27 kids within five points above proficiency.
“That’s 45 kids who are right on that line,” Anderson said. “Of those 45, 36 of those kids were proficient this year. That was very impressive.”
One of the ways many schools prepare for MCA II tests is by taking state-aligned tests called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).
“Every year, we look at certain areas, and we do some testing to identify strengths and weaknesses,” Sweet said. “It helps us to zero in on specific skills.”
“It charts growth and gives you a goal score for the spring,” Anderson said.
At Watertown-Mayer schools, students take the MAP assessment at least twice a year. Some teachers also have their students take the test in the winter, to make sure students are on track, Anderson said.
“We’ve ramped up our testing preparation,” he said. “We’re continuing to improve and adjust.”
In Delano, students have also improved. From 2008 to 2009, the district gained 2 percent proficiency in math, and 3 percent in reading.
Eighth grade math in Delano went from 71 percent proficient in 2008, to 83 percent in 2009. Both years, Delano was significantly above the state average for this area, which was 58 percent proficient in 2008, and 60 percent in 2009.
Some grades had lower proficiency levels, but the overall trend was higher this year for many area schools, as well as the state of Minnesota. The state proficiency level increased by 2 percent in math, and 1 percent in reading.
Anderson said he hasn’t yet finished analyzing the data, but commented that, “we got some pretty good results.”
MCA II tests are useful for measuring student progress, but schools can’t base performance for a whole school year on one test, he added.
“The discouraging thing is, [a student] might have a bad day,” he said. This could make a difference in scores, especially for kids who are teetering on the edge of proficiency, he added.
“They are one indicator of our students’ achievements,” Sweet said.
According to a Minnesota assessment history document, state testing of this kind is relatively new. Although the standards movement began in the late 1980s, statewide assessment requirements dramatically increased with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. The first operational administration of MCA II for grades 3-8, 10, and 11 was given during the 2005-2006 school year.
Students in grades 3-8 take the MCA-II Assessments in reading and mathematics. Students in grade 10 take the MCA-II in reading, and students in grade 11 take the MCA-II in math.
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.