Austin officials pleased with students’ gains in latest round of state testingPublished 10:05am Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Though Austin Public Schools students fell slightly under the state average on this year’s Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, the district may have won out on the 2013 Multiple Measurement Ratings.
Two Austin schools improved their overall rating under the new school grading system, which replaced Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks under No Child Left Behind laws in February 2012. All other schools decreased in ratings, better than what district officials expected.
“We didn’t see many sites decrease tremendously,” said John Alberts, educational services director. “Ultimately, we saw some growth in there as well.”
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.
MMR data focuses on student growth and reducing the academic achievement gap between white and non-white/non-privileged students. The MMR benchmark reflects how well students did based on the academic growth shown in last year’s MCA scores, the graduation rate for those years, the achievement gap between white and non-white or non-privileged students, and whether students are meeting school-tailored MCA score benchmarks.
Southgate and Sumner Elementary Schools outperformed other district schools in proficiency this year by meeting all benchmarks, which are determined based on how third- through eight-grade students previously scored in math and reading, along with a sophomore reading and junior math exam.
In addition, Southgate is eligible for celebration school status, a positive title meant to highlight work done by faculty, staff and parents to improve a school. Sumner was identified as celebration-eligible last year.
“These are some nice individual scores in these areas,” Alberts said.
Schools with the priority, focus and continuous improvement designations must come up with plans to show improvement and will have to set aside 20 percent of their federal poverty aid to launch those plans. Southgate was identified as a focus school last year.
Under MMR, most of Minnesota’s 2,000 public schools received an overall numerical ranking, but only about a quarter — those schools receiving federal poverty aid — got one of five designations: reward, celebration, continuous improvement, focus and priority.
Austin High School, Neveln Elementary School and Ellis Middle School all made about 9 percent proficiency out of a possible 25 percent, while Banfield only made about 5.5 percent of a possible 25 percent of its score. Banfield’s white and special needs students didn’t make MMR proficiency in math, which lowered the school’s overall score.
Alberts said aside from the achievement gap data between white and non-white students, the district won’t be able to use MMR data to track student performance as well as other benchmarks like ScanTron and ACT testing.
“The further removed you are from when a test was given, the less immediate the impact is,” he said.
District officials will share MMR data with building staff over the next few days, who will analyze the data accordingly.
—The Minneapolis Star-Tribune contributed to this report.