MCA-III new reading test results decrease in the state

Reading, math and science results were released by MDE Tuesday

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) scores, Tuesday. These tests are required by state and federal law and are taken annually by all students. They are used as a tool to help schools gauge students’ progress in meeting the state standards for reading, math and science.

This year, students were given a new reading test aligned to career- and college-ready standards. Most students in Minnesota took it online.

Because it was a tougher test, students’ scores decreased from last year. But, because it was a different test, the two cannot be compared, said Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius.

“We can be proud of the fact that Minnesota is a pioneer in setting high expectations for students, and in using online testing that give more timely information to teachers and parents,” she said. “It’s important to look at today’s test results for what they are: a snapshot in time that tells us how students are doing in mastering our state standards.”

The more challenging reading standards were put in place to ensure students are career and college ready when they graduate. Another change to the testing was only allowing students to take the math test once instead of three times as they were able to do last year.

“Because of the state’s flexibility waiver from No Child Left Behind, the students have only one opportunity to take the test this year, a possible reason for the slight dip in this year’s math scores,” said Cassellius. “While important, these tests are just one piece of the overall picture of how students and schools are doing.”

Grades three – eight and 11 took the math tests. Statewide, the scores have increased since 2011.

Grades three – eight and 10 took the reading test. The 2013 scores will establish a new baseline to monitor progress.

Grades five, eight and all high school students took the science tests. Statewide, the scores increased over last year.

Little Falls Supt. Stephen Jones said that it has been well documented that the MCA Reading scores suffered a double digit drop in the latest round of state mandated testing.

“The reading test taken in the spring was intentionally a much more rigorous test designed specifically to more stringent college and career readiness standards. Little Falls Community Schools likewise experienced a double digit drop in reading scores which was not unexpected,” he said. “The good news is that there was a sizable gain in district math scores which demonstrates that the strategies developed last year for improvement were successful. Even though Adequate Yearly Progress results won’t be announced until October, we are confident the report will bode well for the Little Falls Community Schools.”

Holdingford Supt. Eric Williams said he is satisfied with his students’ performance in some areas, but in other areas, he sees more work is needed.

“MCAs are a reality that all public schools in Minnesota need to account for,” he said. “When the scores indicate areas of concern, we need to pay attention to them and address those areas immediately. It is a priority of our board, administration, teachers and, next week, our students.”

Williams said the Holdingford students struggled in the three areas and that it’s not OK with staff. The plan is to provide more time for focused instruction and assessment for the students.

“I am very confident our spring 2014 scores will reflect the hard work and commitment of our administration, teachers and students,” he said.

Pierz Supt. George Weber said that this year is really a restart for the much more rigorous MCA-III reading test.

“Many grades in Minnesota dropped 20 percent or more in terms of those who met the standards,” he said. “Of course, our teachers are never allowed to see the test so we do not really know what exactly the children were tested on. My guess is that in the next few years, you will see most of the overall reading numbers get back to the high levels they were in the past, once our teachers have time to make all the adjustments in curriculum and instruction.”

Weber said that Pierz students have historically tested well. In 2013, Pioneer Elementary was considered a Reward School by the MDE. The math and science scores were also strong in Pierz.

“Our intent is to work hard in the areas where we feel we did not meet the typical high standards that we expect for ourselves,” he said. “Changing curriculum and instruction takes a great deal of time and work outside the classroom, so we have to take a long-term view of how we transform to the new tests and look at it as a multi-year process. I am confident our great teachers and principals will once again respond to this new challenge.”

The average score for students in Minnesota who met or exceeded state standards in each grade are:

Reading MCA-IIIs

Grade three: 57 percent;

Grade four: 54 percent;

Grade five: 64 percent;

Grade six: 59 percent;

Grade seven: 54 percent;

Grade eight: 54 percent; and

Grade 10: 62 percent.

Science MCA-IIIs

Grade five: 60 percent, an increase from 58 percent in 2012;

Grade eight: 44 percent, an increase from 42 percent in 2012; and

High school: 53 percent, an increase from 52 percent in 2012.


Grade three: 72 percent, a decrease from 76 percent in 2012;

Grade four: 71 percent, a decrease from 73 percent in 2012;

Grade five: 60 percent, a decrease from 62 percent in 2012;

Grade six: 57 percent, a decrease from 60 percent in 2012;

Grade seven: 56 percent, a decrease from 59 percent in 2012; and

Grade eight: 59 percent, a decrease from 62 percent in 2012.

The 2013 math MCA-modified and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) assessment results showed that in grades five – eight, students had an increase in performance. Grade 11 students had a slight improvement in the MCA-Modified tests and a steady score with the MTAS assessment.

The MTAS science assessment showed a decrease in scores in all grades.

MTAS testing is an alternative assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities and is part of the Minnesota assessment program.