MCA test results stagnant in Austin, Minnesota

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

With a slight uptick in reading and static results in math, the Austin Public School District’s MCA scores reflect what many schools in Minnesota are experiencing: little improvement.

“It’s nice to see that little uptick and that we’re not losing ground,” said John Alberts, Austin Public School’s executive director of educational services.

Results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment — known as the MCAs — were released late last week by the Minnesota Department of Education. Statewide, results show that Minnesota students showed no real improvement in math and reading during the last school year, and virtually no progress has been made in closing the achievement gap between white and black students.

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This marks the third year of stagnant test results and Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius says she’s disappointed by the slow progress.

Overall, 60 percent of students were considered proficient in reading testing for the 2015-2016 school year. That’s up one percentage point from the previous year. The math proficiency rate dropped about one percentage point, to 61 percent.

In Austin, the district tested 46.5 percent proficient in reading, 50.5 percent proficient in math and 37.6 percent proficient in science.

Although Austin Public Schools continues to be below the state average when it comes to proficiency, Alberts prefers to look at growth scores and individual growth instead.

“We’ve had about 70 percent [of students] scoring medium or high growth in reading and math,” he said.

Because of the district’s diverse student population, Alberts believes that the assumption that all students start at the same place academically is a challenge.

“It’s somewhat difficult to look at just against the state average because we don’t look exactly like the state,” Alberts said.

Some students, like English-language learners, may not be as prepared for the same test as others because of their different academic background.

“If I’m learning English for the first time, it’d be difficult for me to take the reading MCA,” Alberts said.

Moving forward, each building will look at individual data to asses programming and curriculum.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can improve performance in all areas,” Alberts said.

However, the main goal is to improve curriculum in the way it’s delivered, it’s consistency across the district and to assure it’s of the high ester quality, according to Alberts.

“We’re not interested in just chasing a score,” he said.