MARSHALL - School officials in the area got their first look at the 2011-12 Minnesota Comprehension Assessment (MCA) results Tuesday, paving the way for educational conversations and celebrations to begin.
To gauge proficiency, the state classifies approximately 60,000 students in one of four categories - Does Not Meet, Partially Meets, Meets and Exceeds Standards - based on their testing performance. Later this month, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is expected to release Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR), which include growth towards proficiency, progress in closing the achievement gap and graduation rates in addition to proficiency results.
"The MMR is all part of the waiver through the No Child Left Behind law that's currently in place in Minnesota," Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert said. "We know that all these assessments are a one-time snapshot. They are important, but we also look at so many other things."
Statewide, results showed that students in grades 3-8 were making gains in proficiency in both reading and math, according to the MDE. Tenth-grade reading scores also increased across the state, but 11th-grade math results declined from last year.
Marshall students did well, only missing the state mark in sixth- (657.8 average score) and 10th-grade (1055.0) reading.
"We were really pleased with the results," Willert said. "We thought that the improvements that we saw were very indicative of some of the work that we've been doing in the school system. I look at the work we've done with the professional learning communities and how that's really helped. Teachers being able to talk about student achievement every week has made a huge difference."
Willert also credits the addition of the district's Response to Intervention program two years ago. While Stephanie DeVos will maintain her position as a K-8 reading coach, Marshall intends to add a second reading coach for the 7th- through 12th-grade level.
"Part of that is because we have so many schools and so many different programs that feed into our high school," Willert said. "On top of that, the state has added into the standards, in all the core content areas, specific areas of reading content that need to be covered."
Willert pointed out that science teachers or math teachers, for example, aren't specifically educated in reading instruction.
"We need somebody that's been steeped in how to teach kids how to read and read critically," he said. "That's what this new reading coach will do. It should really make a difference, continuing to build off that success we've had and just keep that momentum."
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton students fared extremely well, exceeding the state reading standard in third through eighth and 10th grade. Third- (370.2), fourth- (464.7) and fifth-graders (566.4) finished way above their statewide counterparts.
"We scored very well," RTR Superintendent Bruce Houck said. "We're still waiting to see if we made the score cuts for the Blue Ribbon (award) from the U.S. Department of Education. We got the nomination last year."
Houck said that test results are compiled over a period of five years, which includes this past school year.
"We did really well," he said. "Very few elementary schools are nominated. But now we'll have to wait until September to find out if we get the nationwide award."
Around the area, a number of other districts also did well in reading. Dawson-Boyd students were above the standard in all except for third grade (361.7). Hendricks was also well-above the state average in third (366.9) and fourth grade (467.4) reading. Small numbers kept the other grades from being assessed. Lake Benton third-graders fell slightly below the mark (364.1), but students rose above in fourth- through sixth-grade scores.
In Ivanhoe, students tested below the state average in third (362.5) and 10th grade (1052.8), but surpassed the mark in all the others, except for seventh grade, where small numbers kept MDE from making assessments. Fourth-graders did extremely well (467.8), with 75 percent of students exceeding standards. Murray County Central reading scores predominantly surpassed the state average, but dipped below in fourth (455.2) and 10th grade (1057.0).
Wabasso passed the state mark in four grades, but fell below in third (359.7), sixth (653.8) and seventh grade (751.4). Tracy students surpassed the state average in three grades, but dropped below in fourth (455.7), seventh (754.6), eighth (852.8) and 10th grade (1055.4).
Ninety percent of Lynd third-graders met or exceeded expectations, but combined scores fell slightly below the mark (362.0). Fourth-grade scores surpassed the state average, but fifth- (557.8) and sixth-graders (652.7) did not. All fifth-grade students did finish in the met-standard (84.6 percent) and exceed standard (15.4) category, however.
"We were real happy with reading scores in Lynd," Houck said. "The elementary staff did a nice job with that. We had a couple of categories where all the students were proficient, so that was really good."
Westbrook-Walnut Grove exceeded state reading standards in fourth (468.7) and sixth grade (658.9), but fell below in the others. Tenth-grade scores (1048.4) saw the largest deficit in scores. Canby students also scored below the state average in all except for two grades, with fourth-graders (463.1) and sixth-graders (660.4) testing above.
Minneota 10th-graders surpassed the state average (1058.2), but scored below in all other reading categories. Sixth-grade scores saw the largest deficit with a score of 649.8. compared to the state average of 658.2. Lakeview 10th-graders were also slightly ahead of the state curve (1057.3), while the other six grades missed the target.
Yellow Medicine East students, whose progress will likely be highlighted in the next round of assessments released in a few weeks, tested below the state mark in all reading categories. E.C.H.O Charter School scores also came in below the state mark, with seventh (746.9) and eighth grade (845.1) showing the most concern. Clarkfield Charter School, Milroy and Milroy Area Charter had no results released at this time because of the small number of students in each grade.
Like reading scores, RTR bested the area in MCA III math results. The district easily cleared the average standard score in all except for seventh (748.4) and eighth grade (851.4).
"The staff worked hard with the kids," Houck said. "Our staff actually spent a lot of time with curriculum mapping and then drilling down on the strands. If we were weak in an area, the staff went after that and really emphasized that. They've done a great job of making adjustments."
Marshall met the standard in all grades tested (3-8) except for third (354.4) and fourth grade (452.5).
"The testing metrics have changed (between 2010 to 2011), so this is the first year we can do some side-by-side comparisons," Willert said. "And, while we saw some gains in some areas, we'd certainly hoped to see more."
MCC students met the challenge, except for third grade (357.3). Ivanhoe's scores soared above the standard in every grade but eighth (851.5). Scores were also favorable at Lakeview, where only the third- (357.3) and sixth-graders (649.4) missed the mark.
At Tracy, Hendricks, WWG and Lake Benton, results were split evenly. E.C.H.O Charter surpassed the standards in third (368.4) and eighth grade (856.8), but fell below in the rest, as did Minneota, which missed all but fourth- (454.8) and eighth-grade (852.9). Wabasso reached state targets in seventh and eighth grade, but not the others. Canby hit fourth- and sixth-grade marks.
"Math was a little weaker than reading at Hendricks," Houck said. "That will be an area we'll have to emphasize. It's not alarming, but I just think we can do better. The staff feels that way, too."
Clarkfield third-graders, the only grade to be assessed, came out ahead (362.1) of the state average. Dawson-Boyd scores dropped below the standard in all grades except for sixth. YME and Lynd math results were all below the state average, but strong growth was noted.
"The students improved a lot in math at Lynd," Houck said. "It's always a moving target, but they showed some nice growth. We're really proud of our staff."