Some scores up, many down from last year
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA III) scores were released Tuesday for all districts and all schools across the state. These tests are given annually, are required by state and federal law and are used as just one tool among many to help schools gauge students’ progress in meeting state standards for reading, math and science. The Minnesota Department of Education ascertained that after implementing a test which was aligned to the state’s new reading standards, most students improved over 2013 by at least 1 percentage point. The scores of students who use English as a second language remained steady. In math across Minnesota, students in grades 3-8 continued to progress. In science testing, students’ performance showed progress in mastering the standards. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said, “We are seeing steady improvement in student achievement. The trend line is up, and that’s progress. This kind of change is exactly what we hope to see as our teachers master how to best teach our tougher standards, so each student approaches the test confident and fully prepared. It is critical that we use these scores, along with other indicators of student achievement, to inform our efforts on how best to support our teachers as they prepare our students for career and college.” The Nation’s Report Card, another indicator showing how students are doing, showed Minnesota fourth grade students are first in the nation in math and 10th in reading. The ACT tests showed Minnesota did better than the nation for the ninth year in a row. In 2015, all juniors will take the ACT tests free of charge. The results of the Multiple Measurement’s Ratings show the school’s accountability to the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act. Those results will be released Oct. 1. Of the nine schools shown in the graph, Pierz was the most consistent in raising its student scores in all tests; Pillager students did well in improving its math scores,but did poorly in reading. Staples Motley students did not progress in the lower grades, but the middle school and high school did improve. The scores, in other words, were all over the board, with some grades increasing the number of students who met or exceeded the standards and other grades whose numbers decreased. Locally, Pierz showed increased percentages of those meeting or exceeding the standards in reading in all grades but 10th. Those fifth graders in Upsala who met or exceeded the standards increased their reading skills by 30 percentage points. Fifth graders in Staples/Motley increase their reading skills by 16 points and the seventh grade students by 15 points. It was the third and seventh graders in Swanville whose reading improved the most in their school. The third graders who met and exceeded the standards increased by 14 percentage points. The seventh graders by 34 points, from 34 percent in 2013 to 68 percent this year. The number of Pillager students in grades 3-6 who met or exceeded the standards in math increased, but those in seventh and eighth grade in the same category decreased. Staples Motley students held steady in all grades but eighth, where the number of students who met or exceeded standards rose by 10 percent points from last year. The number of Upsala fifth grade students who met or exceeded the math standards increased by 14 percentage points, but the sixth graders dropped by 23 percentage points and the eighth graders by 16 points. Swanville’s fourth graders dropped in the number of those who met or exceeded the math standards by 13 percentage points and its sixth graders by 28 points. Twenty percent more seventh graders met or exceeded. Three of the nine districts represented in the graph responded to a request for comments. Each said they had just received the information and felt it would take weeks to analyze and couldn’t comment at this time. More Royalton students met or exceeded the math standards in sixth grade by nearly 10 percent, but nearly 13 percent less in eighth grade. Sauk Rapids/Rice saw its fifth grade students lose considerable ground in the science tests, from 91.6 percent meeting or exceeding the standards to 48.6 percent. The eighth grade and high school students increased their numbers. The average score for students in Minnesota who met or exceeded state standards in each grade are: Reading MCA-IIIs Grade three: 58 percent, an increase from 57 percent in 2013; Grade four: 55 percent, an increase from 54 percent in 2013; Grade five: 68 percent, an increase from 64 percent in 2013; Grade six: 61 percent, an increase from 59 percent; Grade seven: 56 percent, an increase from 54 percent; Grade eight: 56 percent, an increase from 54 percent; and Grade 10: 60 percent, a decrease from 62 percent. Science MCA-IIIs Grade five: 61 percent, an increase from 60 percent in 2013; Grade eight: 45 percent, an increase from 44 percent in 2013; and High school: 53 percent, no change from 2013. Math MCA-IIIs Grade three: 72 percent, the same as in 2013; Grade four: 70 percent, a decrease from 71 percent in 2013; Grade five: 62 percent, an increase from 60 percent in 2013; Grade six: 57 percent, the same as in 2013; Grade seven: 57 percent, an increase from 56 percent in 2013; and Grade eight: 60 percent, an increase from 59 percent in 2013. 2014 is the first year the math test was given to 11th grade students. The state average of those meeting or exceeding the standards was 51 percent.