Anoka- Hennepin MCA scores improve

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Anoka-Hennepin saw improvements in Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment scores across subject areas this year.

2017 MCA scores were released by the Minnesota Department of Education Aug. 7. Students in grades three through eight, 10 and 11 are tested on math, reading and science knowledge, though not necessarily all in the same year.

The percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in math increased by about half a percentage point to 66.1 percent, the highest level the district has seen in the last five years.

The percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in reading continues to increase. The figure is up 4.4 percentage points in five years, 1.1 percentage point in the last year. In reading, 64.8 percent of Anoka-Hennepin students met benchmarks.

The percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in science saw the largest leap this year with a 1.6 percentage-point bound from 2016. In 2017, 64.5 percent of students demonstrated proficiency.

The district is outperforming the state by 7.5 percentage points in math, 4.7 percentage points in reading and 10.6 percentage points in science.

And achievement gaps between white students and students of color are considerably lower than statewide gaps, with the exception of the gap between white students and multiracial students.

“We’re never satisfied, but we’re pleased,” Superintendent David Law said of MCA scores. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Many efforts are contributing to increasing proficiency, chief among them high student engagement, well aligned curriculum and ever improving interventions, according to Law.

Educational Non-Verbal Yardsticks, or ENVoY, strategies have improved classroom management and increased student engagement throughout the district, Law said.

Declining MCA reading scores at the third-grade level prompted review of English language arts materials two years ago. Third-grade reading proficiency is an important benchmark, as research shows a correlation between reading proficiency and success in high school and beyond.

Reading Wonders curriculum was purchased in 2016 and rolled out to elementary schools ahead of the 2016-2017 school year. Third-grade proficiency increased in 2016 by 0.7 percentage points and by another 1.3 percentage points this year.

Learning interventions continue to improve annually, Law said. “Every year we’re refining what we do for support.”

Juniors taking the test this spring were informed that ACT scores and MCA scores would be included on transcripts going forward following a statewide mandate to include ACT scores, MCA scores or both as a measure of college and career readiness.

“I think that increased their focus on the test,” Law said.

High school math scores are still lagging. Of the juniors taking the MCA math test last spring, 47.6 percent demonstrated proficiency. Statewide, 48.3 percent of juniors met benchmarks.

The gap is significantly less than last year when there was a discrepancy of 7.2 percentage points.

In math, Anoka-Hennepin tests well above state average in all other grade levels, so the district is trying to find ways to maintain that math proficiency in high school. The district is in the second year of taking a deep dive into secondary math curriculum and instruction as part of the Secondary Math Plan, a strategic priority of the School Board.

“That’s an area of focus for our district,” Law said.

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