Coon Rapids High School students improve science scores

Coon Rapids High School has accomplished something remarkable.

The achievement gap for science scores on the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment dropped more than 40 points, thanks in part to a massive increase in proficiency among students of color.

Coon Rapids Principal Annette Ziegler said relationship-based teaching at the school is one big reason for the remarkable results.

“Our staff has embraced restitution theories, student relationships and shared collaboration in teacher teams to ensure learning targets, formative assessments and best practices for our students,” Ziegler said.

All told, white students at CRHS scored 58.6 percent proficiency on the science test, which is about the same as they’ve been scoring in the past.

The difference came from black students, who increased their proficiency from 20 percent in 2012, to 55 percent in 2013.

The difference – or achievement gap – between the two groups fell to just 3.6 percent.

While the improvements didn’t come as much of a surprise for the staff, they were delighted to see their achievement gap reach almost zero.

CRHS has been working harder and more diligently with students, which Ziegler believes has helped contribute to the recent successes. The students now take the test as 11th graders.

There have been a number of programs developed to help students reach their full potential and the school has made it a goal to increase enrollment in advanced learner classes, she said.

But possibly the most important factor might be the role of the biology teachers.

“They strive to set rigorous expectations and they don’t give up on students,” Ziegler said.

“I was really pleased with the results on the testing,” Jeff McGonigal, the associate superintendent for high schools said. “You want to be able to reach out and see the students and impact them. They worked hard and had so much improvement.”

He said the collaboration between the science teachers at CRHS has been phenomenal as they work in teams and continuously look for new ways to help instruct their students.

“This is how they’ll continue to be successful,” he said.

Ziegler said that the school has specific plans to help continue pushing its students forward.

“As a whole school we are looking at ways to more systematically catch students who show signs of failure early in high school and provide the best services – like interventions – for them,” she said.

“We also try to identify whether a student lacks academic knowledge or lacks support and motivation so we can help. We also encourage teachers to approach their courses as a team, collaboratively working and planning for the best instruction possible.”

Both McGonigal and Ziegler said that it is extremely gratifying as educators to see students succeed and perform so well on standardized testing.

“We are very excited about our current successes with our students,” Ziegler said.

“Along with our Coon Rapids community we look forward to the growing of our Project Lead The Way biomedical program and the opportunities it will afford our students with purposeful college and career pathways in a growing and exciting field.”

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