Report card: Austin schools improving, but behind state averagePublished 9:40am Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, standardized tests taken yearly at Minnesota public schools, came out today across the state. The resounding message was that Austin is moving in the right direction, but still has a way to go.
“We’re still looking to improve,” said John Alberts, director of educational services with Austin Public Schools. “We still want to get after and exceed that state average.”
The test’s two main subjects, math and reading, each gave a separate score for the district. Alberts emphasized that test results from year-to-year won’t necessarily show the growth in any given group of students. Only certain grades are tested.
For example, reading tests in the high school are only administered to 10th-grade students.
“You like to compare the same group of cohorts,” Alberts said. “There is some longitudinal difficulty there.”
In reading, Alberts said things have been fairly steady.
“We really saw the same performance as the previous year,” Alberts said. “We’re still fairly below the state average.”
On a positive note, he said, Sumner Elementary’s experimental language arts curriculum “Mondo” seemed to be gaining results. Sumner had the highest improvement in reading in the district this year at 5.6 percent.
“That’s a nice affirmation,” he said, adding that other districts who were trying out Mondo saw similar results.
Ellis Middle School saw about a .9 percent gain from its literacy focus. Southgate improved by 3.8 percent. These numbers compare with the state average improvement in reading, which was 1.4 percent.
At the high school, the district saw a slight decline, though Alberts said the school still sits at the state average and is still performing well.
On the GRAD test, the high school came through with a 78.5 percent pass rate, slightly below the statewide average at 80.4 percent. The gap has widened a bit since 2011, when the high school had a 77.8 percent pass rate against the state’s average of 78.7
In terms of mathematics, the district has seen positive growth across grade levels. In general, there was an increase of 16.2 percent, Albert said. Compared to the state average increase of 7.6, that means Austin is catching up.
“We’re obviously improving at a faster rate,” Alberts said.
Grades 3 through 8 take the MCA3, while the high school takes the MCA2; those are two different tests and would be difficult compared. Still, it appears the highest increase in the district was a 24.7 percent jump in math at Sumner.
“This was our second year of the implementation of a new math curriculum,” Alberts said, adding the leap was expected given that it takes a little time to refine the curriculum.
At the end of August, the first Multiple Measurement Ratings results will be released. In February, the program replaced the standards of measurement put in place by No Child Left Behind. The main difference between the two systems is MMR includes a gauge of how schools are improving, rather than focusing only on whether they meet proficiency requirements.