Austin below state average on MCAs
Published 10:10 am Thursday, July 30, 2015
Austin Public Schools District’s state tests scores are below the state average, as well as below last year’s numbers.
Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments results — known as the MCAs — released Thursday morning by the Minnesota Department of Education show Austin students below the state average and last year’s scores in all three categories: math, reading and science.
“In general, in all three we were below the state average,” Educational Services Director John Alberts said.
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While the district’s numbers were down, Alberts did note some elementary math scores were above last year’s numbers. In fifth-grade, 49.4 percent of students met or exceeded standards this year, compared to 44 percent last year, though the state average was 59.7 percent. While 48 percent of sixth-graders met or exceeded standards in math compared to 40.7 percent last year, it was also below the 57.6 percent state average. Eighth-grade math was close to the state average this year, with Austin at 53.8 percent meeting or exceeding standards; the state average was 57.8 percent.
“That’s somewhere we hope to to continue that performance,” Alberts said.
Science scores were down in fifth grade by about 12 percent from the state average, and eighth grade scores were down about 11 percent. Reading scores were also down, about 10-12 percent in each grade tested.
“Essentially our next steps are to take a look at these in greater detail … and determine those areas of focus and work from there,” Alberts said.
Alberts said though administration works to raise the scores, they also give a large consideration to individual improvement. He noted the differences in population for the district versus the state average.
“Look at the population of Austin versus the state population,” he said. “We look different than the state average.”
Alberts noted several differences, such as a higher number of English language learners students — some whose first language isn’t English and some who are still learning English — as well as students with free and reduced lunch. Last school year, Austin Public Schools had 740 English language learner students — 15.4 percent of the student body, which was higher than the state average of 8.3 percent, according to the department of education. The district also had 2,751 students qualify for free and reduced lunches. That was 57.3 percent of the student body, also higher than the state average of 38.3 percent.
Alberts said because the district doesn’t look exactly like the state average, administration focuses on individual achievement.
“We like to look at what degree of growth do we see within the student’s academic year,” Alberts said.
The tests were administered completely online for the first time this year, but were suspended several times statewide after students attempted to take the mandatory proficiency tests online but couldn’t log in or had tests slow to a crawl. In past years, districts could choose between online testing or paper. Alberts said Austin wasn’t as affected by test provider Pearson’s online administration system as some areas in Minnesota, though the district did suspend testing several times to avoid issues and follow suit with the state.