District 16 MCA test scores yield mixed results compared to state

District 16 students scored mixed test results compared with the state’s proficiency rates on this year’s MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) tests, with Westwood Middle School’s seventh-graders besting state proficiency rates by 8 percent in reading.

Spring Lake Park High school’s scores dipped below the state’s proficiency rate in the math and reading tests.

Still, by comparison District 16’s students saw a marked gain in their proficiency rates in both the 2012 MCA math and reading tests from last year’s student scores.

“We’re always looking at how we can improve student learning,” said Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg. “We still have room for growth.”

Overall, the district’s reading scores increased 2.1 percent from 74.9 percent proficient in 2011 to 77 percent proficient in 2012. In math, student scores increased 5.3 percent from 55 percent proficient in 2011 to 60.3 percent proficient in 2012, according to Jerelyne Nemanich, District 16’s assessment coordinator.

District 16 students took the MCA tests last spring. Grades three through eight and grade 10 took the reading test on paper. For the math test, third-graders through eighth-graders tested on computers, while the 11th-graders used paper and pencil.

Students testing on computers took the test twice, according to Nemanich,. Depending on their scores some took the test three times.

District 16 reading

In reading, District 16’s third-graders, districtwide, kept pace with the state, achieving the same proficiency rate of 80 percent. Northpoint Elementary came in at 85 percent proficient, five percent more than the state’s 80 percent proficient.

Grades four and five scored higher than the state’s rate, with Westwood Middle School’s grade seven coming in at 79 percent proficient, besting the state’s 71 percent proficiency rate by 8 percent. Westwood’s sixth-graders overall scored 75 percent proficient, 1 percent below the state proficiency rate. And the eighth-grade scores were on par with the state rate at 72 percent.

WWMS’s scores include the middle school students, students in the learning alternatives Lighthouse program for the gifted and talented and students in Westwood’s learning alternatives program.

So why the improvement, for the most part, in Westwood’s scores?

WWMS has made a concerted effort in its professional learning communities to use current student data as a driving force in their teaching, said Principal Paula Hoff.

“We looked into what data we had, where students were doing well, where students were not doing well and what are we going to do to address the learning needs,” Hoff said.

This school year, WWMS will take the data deeper, including current quiz scores, and plan lessons for tomorrow.

“Planning of teaching is really based on what they’re (the students) learning today,” Hoff said. “Teaching and learning has changed – without a doubt.”

In high school reading scores, the SLP 10th-graders this year scored 72 percent proficient, 5 percentage points below the state’s 77 percent.

Ronneberg cautions that just five to seven students can skew test results significantly when a smaller group of students test.

District 16 math

Districtwide, the third-graders scored 79 percent proficient, 3 percent above the state’s proficiency rate of 76 percent.

Park Terrace’s third-graders scored a proficiency rate of 85 percent, outpacing the state’s rate of 76 percent by nine percentage points. Northpoint showed similar improvements with a proficiency rate of 82 percent. But Woodcrest’s third-grade scores at 69 percent proficient dipped below the state proficiency rate by seven percentage points.

Westwood Intermediate’s fourth-graders scored 75 percent proficient, two percentage points above the state, while the fifth-graders tested at 60 percent proficient, two percentage points below the state’s score of 62 percent proficient.

Westwood Middle School seventh-graders scored four percentage points above the state’s 59 percent proficient at 63 percent proficient.

Westwood Middle School’s eighth-grade scores dipped below state averages by nine percentage points, at a 53 percent proficiency rate compared to the state’s 62 percent. The school’s sixth-grade scores also dipped below the state proficiency rate by five percent for a proficiency rate of 55 percent.

Still, WWMS has shown a marked improvement over last year, when the eighth-graders’ math proficiency rate was 44 percent. The sixth-grade scores last year were 53 percent, marking a 2 percent increase this year. In comparing scores, it is important to note a different group of children are tested each year.

The11th-graders scored 36 percent proficient (on MCA-II math test), compared to the state’s proficiency rate of 43.

High school staff members are looking into how to improve math test scores, Ronneberg said. They are looking into offering great support. Among offerings are online learning, students may enroll in a double-dose of math classes and the school is looking into assessing progress on a more regular basis. Staff members are also looking into the curriculum and how to better align what’s tested and what’s being taught to “set up kids for success,” Ronneberg said.

Local assessments show District 16 is making progress in closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color, Ronneberg said.

“We are seeing a decline in the gap between students of color and white students, but we’re still not where we want it to be,” he said.

The district was set to examine achievement gap numbers as this issue of the Life went to press.

For more information on MCA test scores, visit the Minnesota Department of Education website at www.education.state.mn.us.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]