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Area students fare OK in state tests MCA performance

MCA II results

WORTHINGTON -- School districts in southwest Minnesota again fell below the state average on key math and reading tests, but students in several area districts showed marked improvement in their performance.

The Minnesota Department of Education on Thursday released the results of this spring's Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA-IIs), which test students' grasp of grade-level skills in math and reading. Both tests are administered in grades three through eight, with an additional reading test in grade 10 and math test in grade 11.

Students who meet or exceed the standards on the assessment are considered proficient for their grade.

The MCA-IIs also help determine if a district has made Adequate Yearly Progress toward the academic proficiency of all its students -- a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act -- and can mean sanctions for districts that do not improve quickly enough.

Students in the Hills-Beaver Creek district faired best in reading with 83 percent proficiency, while Luverne had the highest scores --76 percent -- in math. Earning the lowest scores in southwest Minnesota was Worthington with 46 percent proficiency in math and Round Lake with 49 percent in reading. Students in Edgerton, Ellsworth, H-BC, Luverne, Murray County Central, Red Rock Central and Westbrook-Walnut Grove districts improved their proficiency percentages in both reading and math.

Worthington District 518 students held steady on reading assessments, with 57 percent of students scoring at a proficient level -- the same percentage as last year. In math, student proficiency declined, dropping from 50 percent last year to 46 percent this year.

"When we look at our scores, our white and Hispanic population is staying pretty steady," explained Tammy Timko, the district's director of teaching and learning. "We really had a drop both in our black and Asian populations, and really that was for reading and for math. We will dig into the data."

Timko said administrators will analyze scores this summer, considering subgroups of students: those of different ethnicities or those who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, for example; and performance on subject-specific skills.

"We go beyond just going into math and reading but going into sub strands, so we know what areas are weak and which are stronger," she continued. "We also use that data to help us design afterschool and summer school programs. The research shows the only way to close the achievement gap is to give those students more (instructional) time."

Statewide, students at all grade levels improved their scores in math, while reading scores stayed relatively constant for most grades. Reading scores for eleventh-grade students continued their upward trend for the second year in a row. 

"The hard work of students, parents and teachers in our statewide focus on math is really starting to pay off with these steadily improving test results in elementary and middle school," Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said in a news release. "Today's results also show what happens when we raise expectations for our high school students and hold them accountable for their efforts in reading by requiring a certain level of proficiency for graduation."

According to MDE, minority students also made significant gains in certain grades, but because all student groups improved, there is no significant progress to report on Minnesota's achievement gap.