AUSTIN EDITION -- State math scores jump

Austin 8th-graders show dramatic improvement

By Matthew Stolle

Eighth-graders in Austin public schools improved slightly in reading but more dramatically in math, scoring a passing rate of 77 percent on the reading exam and 75 percent on the math portion of the state's basic skills tests.

Last year, Austin eighth-graders earned passing rates of 76 percent and 68 percent respectively on the reading and math tests.


Austin students' scores were below the state average in reading but above it in math this year, with the state average at 80 percent in reading and 74 percent in math.

Candace Raskin, principal of Banfield Elementary School, was thrilled about the leap Austin students made in the math portion of the tests.

"Yes, yes, yes!" Raskin exclaimed upon hearing the news that this year's eighth-graders had improved by 7 percentage points.

Raskin noted that Austin has made curriculum changes at the elementary level and sequence changes in the middle-school years that are beginning to pay off.

"We know that those curriculum changes are right on, and that's terrific," she said. "I know that our teachers will be thrilled for our students."

Students must pass the basic skills tests, which include exams in reading, math and writing, to receive a high school diploma. Results of the writing test come out in May.

Eighth grade is the first year that students take the tests. Students who fail them on their first try are given additional opportunities to take them.

Rochester students improved slightly this year, with 84 percent of eighth-graders passing the reading test and 77 percent passing the math exam. That's up from an 83 percent passing rate in reading and 74 percent in math that Rochester eighth-graders earned last year.


Several area southeastern school districts performed well on the tests: Byron earned success rates of 85 and 83 on the reading and math portions of the tests; Winona scored an 87 and 81; Plainview got a 92 and 87; Lanesboro earned an 89 and 93; and Houston got identical 89s on the tests.

The Dover-Eyota district showed dramatic improvement over the previous year, jumping from a 75 percent to an 88 percent this year in reading and a 64 percent to 90 percent in math.

This is the fifth year that students have taken the tests as part of a statewide effort to establish minimum skills for students.

Noting that Rochester's passing rates dipped slightly last year, Randy Nelson, the district's director of instruction services, said he was encouraged by the district's scores.

"Last year, we slid back for I don't know why, but we're rebounding and moving back up in both reading and math," he said. "It pleased me a lot to see a three percent increase in mathematics ... it's an area we've been working really hard on to improve our results."

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