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Rochester MCA scores rise in reading

The results for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments show Rochester students' reading proficiency increased slightly, while math and science proficiency decreased slightly, following similar results last year.

Rochester schools performed with lower levels of proficiency in math and science compared to the state, according to results released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Statewide, in overall scores Minnesota's proficiency is 60.2 percent, while Rochester fell just below that mark at 58.8 percent. The district has fallen just below the state average for the last four years, according to MDE's website.

Last year, 51.8 percent of students in the district were proficient in science, this year the district fell to 50.7 percent. In math, scores fell 1.1 percentage points.

Assistant superintendent Brenda Lewis said MCAs are one measure the district uses, but it also uses other assessments on a more frequent basis to judge progress and refine teaching methods.


"We continue to look at where are we doing well, from a student basis on a larger scale as well as on an individual student basis," Lewis said.

The MCAs are taken statewide each spring in three subject areas — math, science and reading — with performance benchmarks for proficiency, a measure which includes students who "meet" or "exceed" the state standard.

These scores are factored in to the state's Multiple Measurement Ratings, or MMR, which measures proficiency, growth, graduation rates and reduction of the achievement gap — with schools earning points in each category to determine its MMR.

The state's education commissioner, Brenda Cassellius, said fluctuations from year to year are normal.

"The trend line is going up, but year to year you might see those fluctuations," she said.

Rochester followed the state's slight increase in reading scores, with an almost 60 percent proficiency, after scores fell in almost 19 percent in 2013 after new, more difficult standards were implemented.

"I think our teachers are still adjusting to the difficulty of that test," she said, noting the test requires stronger critical thinking skills, longer word passages and has more difficult words.

But some question the effectiveness of the MCAs, and whether it adequately measures progress.


"I think we should hold everyone to certain standards, but we put too much weight on [the MCAs]," said Gary Smith, a Rochester school board member.

This year the assessments were administered completely online for the first time after the state signed a three-year $33 million contract with Pearson, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

But system-wide glitches, like delays, hacks and system lock-outs on three April test dates caused problems for districts across the state, including Rochester. Many questioned if scores were affected, but Cassellius said there was no evidence to suggest the disruptions had negative effects.

"... the effects of the disruption were not in a consistent direction," according to an investigation report prepared for the state by the Human Resources Research Organization. "This indicates that for some grades and subjects the disruption was beneficial and in other grades the disruption was detrimental. And, for most grades there was no impact at all."

The state expects information about a settlement for the disruptions, as well as information on how similar glitches can be prevented in the future next week, said Cassellius.

"The department is currently working with the state's testing vendor, Pearson, to determine financial consequences and possible changes to our contract for a successful 2016 testing

administration," she said.


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