Column: May is month of assessment tests in District 518
WORTHINGTON -- It is that time of the year when students are finalizing projects, completing tests and determining what needs to be completed before the school year is done. This past month, they have also been busy taking their Minnesota Test of Academic Skills or the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) in Reading, Mathematics and Science.
The state requires that all students in public schools participate in these statewide assessments in order to measure their progress toward Minnesota's academic standards and to indicate what students in a particular grade should know and be able to do. The mathematics and reading tests are given in grades 3-8, students in grade 10 take the Reading MCA and the juniors participate in the Mathematics MCA. The Science MCA is given in grades 5, 8 and to high school students who have completed their Biology course, while the Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD) Written Composition is administered in ninth grade.
Some of you may now be asking why we give these tests. The MCA not only fulfill the requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but locally we can use these assessments to find out how our schools have aligned the curriculum and instructed students in these content areas. Then, in turn, we can use this information to improve classroom teaching and learning.
By having the teachers and principals review this data, they can determine what areas our students are doing well so they can reinforce the ways these skills have been taught. In addition, it will indicate what areas need improvement so we can increase instructional time or modify the instruction.
While letter grades are part of everyday life in the school setting, students do not pass or fail the reading and mathematics assessment in grades 3-8 or the science test given in grades 5, 8 and high school. Rather, each student receives a score that falls in one of the following achievement levels: Exceeds the Standards, Meets the Standards, Partially Meets the Standards, and Does Not Meet the Standards. The Grade 9 Written Composition, Grade 10 Reading, and Grade 11 Mathematics assessments are used to meet graduation requirements, so it is extremely important that our students do their best on these tests.
Once our school district has received the individual student reports for each student, this information is provided to parents and guardians. It will show the overall score in each subject as well as scores for specific skill areas within each subject. By working together with teachers in the district, students and parents can then set goals to improve achievement.
Our first- and second-graders complete the Measures of Academic Progress in math and reading, which provide detailed information about where each student is at in their educational journey. By understanding each student's academic level, our teachers can build curriculum that meets their individual needs. Thankfully, the test items are of interest to our younger students and will outline what they know and what they're ready to learn.
The ACCESS for English Language Learners (ELL) are the assessments developed by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium and administered to English learners in order to measure progress toward meeting Minnesota's standards for English language development. These standards incorporate a set of model performance indicators that describe the expectations educators have of ELL students at four different grade level clusters and in five content areas: social and instructional language, English language arts, math, science and social studies. In addition, the four language domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing are addressed.
Yes, the students have been very busy completing these assessments and we are thankful for their hard work. Happy summer, everyone!
Connie Hesse is coordinator of teaching and learning for District 518.