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Districts take note of state test scores

While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) test results haven't been released for individual districts, area schools are keeping an eye on the state's trends.

State results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) II tests, mandated through NCLB, show mixed reviews for high school students. This year, 79 percent of 10th grade students met or exceeded standards for reading, while only 59 percent of 11th grade students made the grade in math.

While that doesn't seem too optimistic, those figures are up from last year, when 78 percent of sophomores hit standards in reading, and 58 percent of juniors passed in the math department.

Tenth grade students are subject to the reading test each year, while juniors take the math test. The tests have been labeled as graduation requirements, but students are eligible to graduate if they attempt to re-take the test, even if their second attempt is not successful.

Last year, the Perham School District had 78 percent of its sophomores pass the reading test the first time around. Only 35 percent made the grade in math. Preliminary results this year, not yet available to the public, indicate improvements in that area for Perham students, said Principal John Rutten.

"We had E2T2 (Enhancing Education through Technology) grants, which helped us with technology in our classrooms," he said, "which we think helped us to teach and make it more understandable."

Rutten also said teachers sold students on the reality that tests do matter, which seemed to make a difference.

"Kids took it more seriously," he said.

In New York Mills, juniors were split down the middle, with 50 percent passing math standards. In 10th grade reading, the district saw 77.8 percent success.

NY Mills Principal Blaine Novak said he expects test results to go up this year, which he also attributes to the ETT2 grant and teacher-driven practices.

"I would say our growth and what's happening in our schools system is due specifically to our teachers really looking at standards and addressing student needs," he said. "They're meeting students where they're at and moving forward from there."

District results from the MCA-II tests are scheduled to be released to the public on Aug. 15. Results will include reading and math tests taken by elementary students, middle school students and freshmen, as well.

The state will release its list of districts that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards in September. Both NY Mills and Perham schools were on the AYP list last year for failing to meet standards in the special education categories.

A district is considered to have met No Child Left Behind standards when all students have tested at 100 percent proficiency. So far, no school in the state has come close to the goal.