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District 518 falls below state average for science MCA-II

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington Public School District 518 students are making slow progress in the science Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II test as reflected in the latest results released Aug. 12.

MCAs test reading, math and science skills among students, but only the reading and math portions are used to determine if schools make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress).

The MCA-II science exam is taken by fifth- and eighth-graders, along with high schoolers -- typically 10th-graders who have completed a life science class.

Statewide results reflected approximately 54 percent of high school students were proficient, which showed a steady increase in proficiency scores since the test was implemented in 2008. There was a slight dip, since 2010, in proficiency test scores for eighth-graders, which now stands at about 45 percent, while the percentage for fifth-graders remained the same as the year before.

Worthington students' test scores fell below state average for all three grades:

l 34.9 percent of high-schoolers tested proficient compared to 30.3 percent in 2010.

l 28.6 percent of eighth-graders tested proficient compared to 23 percent in 2010.

l 26.9 percent of fifth-graders tested proficient compared to 28.9 percent in 2010.

For fifth-graders, scores do not necessarily reflect growth because new students are tested each year, explained Tammy Timko, District 518 coordinator of teaching and learning.

There was, however, about a 3 percent growth in proficiency for the district's fifth-graders who took the test in 2008 and as 10th-graders this year, as well as eighth-graders who were tested in 2009 and as 10th-graders this year.

"Our high-schoolers though, have had a steady increase, even though we're talking (about) different kids, which is nice to see," Timko said.

"Still, we aren't happy with any of those percents," she added. "We want to have a lot more (students) proficient."

There are numerous reasons why the school district's test scores are below state average, including language skills and varied educational experiences, Timko said.

"More than the language piece, we have students who don't have the same education background," she said. "Maybe the rigor of the schools they went to isn't the same as schools in the United States."

Racial achievement disparity is a troubling matter for both the state and the Worthington school district.

The two majority demographic groups in District 518 are Hispanic and Caucasian. Out of 203 Hispanic students who were tested this year, 16.3 percent were proficient. Their Caucasian counterparts showed a proficiency level of approximately 48 percent out of the 233 students who tested.

"We do have an achievement gap, and that's something we definitely need to work on," Timko said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, who said in a press release, "This achievement gap reflects Minnesota's urgent need to focus time, attention and resources to making sure all children achieve at high levels."