District 11 students beat state standards

For the first time in seven years, Anoka-Hennepin District 11 students scored above the state proficiency at every level and every subject in the recently-released Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) test results.

McKinley Elementary School students enjoyed an evening of reading “under the stars” last spring, one of the ways Anoka-Hennepin schools make learning fun. File photo by Sue Austreng
McKinley Elementary School students enjoyed an evening of reading “under the stars” last spring, one of the ways Anoka-Hennepin schools make learning fun. File photo by Sue Austreng

Double-digit gains in science and math at the secondary level indicate an especially favorable achievement.

“We are thrilled with the results,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

“When you combine the excellent MCA scores with our strong ACT results and our continued progress on narrowing the achievement gap, it really underscores our district’s efforts to boost achievement of all students.”

Specifically, Anoka-Hennepin students scored 65 percent proficiency in math (compared with 62 percent proficiency statewide); 61 percent proficiency in reading (compared with 58 percent proficiency statewide); and 10.9 percentage points over state proficiency in science.

District leaders especially celebrated a double-digit gain in high school math. The percentage of students scoring at a proficient level increased by 12.7 points, beating the state average by 2.3 percentage points.

All of the district’s high schools gained 11 or more percentage points, and one school, Andover High School, gained 14.8 points.

Elementary and middle school math remained above the state average, but elementary math scores dipped one point while middle school increased by less than a point.

Dr. Mary Wolverton, associate superintendent for elementary schools, and Jeff McGonigal, associate superintendent for high schools, said they believe collaborative work has been an important factor.

“But our success can’t be attributed to just one thing; there have been a number of factors,” McGonigal said.

He also highlighted the work the district has done with national experts who have been providing intensive staff development for math teachers.

Award-winning author and consultant Tim Kanold and his associates have been going directly into high school classrooms during the past two years to observe math teachers and coach them in new approaches to help students learn.

According to McGonigal, last year they worked with middle school teachers as well and they plan to spend one more year in the district’s middle and high schools.

In addition, high schools have implemented credit recovery programs to help students catch up on missed credits at school during the school day, McGonigal said.

Not only that, schools have developed their own unique programs to provide “just-in-time” help for students who need a little more time or repetition to solidify their grasp of a particular skill, he said.

“This helps students keep up with the class so they are ready to move on to new material along with their classmates,” McGonigal said.

District science scores were also positive, with an overall increase of 8.5 points over last year and 10.9 points over the state average.

The biggest gain was in middle school science, where scores increased nine percentage points over last year, surpassing the state average by 19.4 points.

Dr. Jinger Gustafson, associate superintendent for middle schools, said she was “amazed with the strong gains, and especially the comparison with the state average.”

Gustafson believes the biggest factor has been work in collaborative teams, as it was with math, she said.

According to Gustafson, in collaborative team work after teachers give a test, they review the results and then regroup students so they can provide instruction that closely aligns with the needs of each group.

Reading scores remain above the state average at all levels, 60.3 percent of district students scoring proficient compared with the state average of 57.6 percent. Those scores cannot be compared with previous years because students took a new test this year. According to state officials, the new test was substantially more difficult because it was based on more rigorous standards aimed at college and career readiness.

The district’s high MCA scores ran the gamut across socioeconomic lines.

“When you consider that we have the lowest per capita income in the seven-county metro area along with the lowest percentage of adults with a college degree you understand the challenges our students and teachers face,” Carlson said.

“I applaud the excellent work of our teachers and am thrilled with the fine performance of our students.”

For school-by-school and grade-specific results contact Anoka-Hennepin’s Research, Testing and Evaluation Department (at www.anoka.k12.mn.us) for a link to the Minnesota Department of Education’s test results document.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]