District 191 lags state on test scores

State test results show wide achievement gaps

Most grade levels in School District 191 lag state averages in math and reading proficiency on state tests given this spring.

The results are found in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district’s 2011-12 Annual Report on Curriculum, Instruction and Student Achievement. The School Board approved the state-mandated report Sept. 20.

Additional test data show wide achievement gaps for black and Hispanic students, low-income students, students learning English and special education students.

Board Member Dan Luth complained that those data aren’t in the annual report and as such are largely hidden from public view.

Math results from Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments given in April and May show District 191 students lagging behind the statewide average in all grades except six. The math test is given in grades three through eight and in grade 11.

In grade six, 59.8 percent of district students achieved proficiency on the test compared with 58.8 percent statewide.

In other grades, district students lagged the state average by as much as 12 percent. In grade three, 63.6 percent of district students reached proficiency, compared with 75.6 percent statewide.

Elementary results did improve over last year, with an average proficiency rating increase of 3 percent, according to the report.

In junior high, proficiency rates grew by 7 percent in grade seven and by 12 percent in grade eight over 2011. But the district remains 3 percent behind the state average in grade seven and 7 percent behind in grade eight.

High school proficiency levels fell by 6 percent from 2011. District high schools lagged state performance by 2 percent.

Across all student groups, math proficiency rose by an average of nearly 9 percent, the report said. Proficiency rates range from 9 percent below the state rate for Hispanic students to nearly 13 percent above the state rate for black students.

Reading proficiency lagged behind state averages in all but grades five (78.1 percent for District 191 vs. 78 percent for the state) and six (80.5 percent vs. 75 percent).

The reading test is given in grades three through eight and in grade 10.

Junior high proficiency rates fell by 3 percent in grade seven compared with 2011 and rose by 9 percent in grade eight. The district’s proficiency rates lag the state’s by 7 percent in grade seven and 9 percent in grade eight.

High school proficiency levels fell by 1 percent and lag the state by nearly 2 percent.

Across all student groups in the district, reading proficiency fell by nearly 2 percent. Group proficiency compared with state averages ranged from 9 percent lower for Hispanics to nearly 7 percent higher for Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in science weren’t yet available.
Achievement gaps

MCA math and reading scores show wide variations when broken down by student subgroups.

Proficiency ratings on the math test exceeded 70 percent for white students and students not qualifying for free or subsidized school meals.

Only about 40 percent of black students were proficient, and fewer than 40 percent of Hispanic students were proficient.

Free or subsidized meal students were slightly above 40 percent. Students with limited English and special education students came in under 40 percent, and the district’s small number of American Indian students was less than 30 percent.

In reading, white students and students not receiving free or subsidized meals reached nearly 90 percent proficiency. Black students were just above 60 percent, and Hispanics just above 50 percent.

Limited-English and special education students were below 50 percent.

Those data were in a supplemental report that was shown in a Power Point and available as a handout at the Sept. 30 board meeting, but not in the annual curriculum, instruction and achievement report posted on the district website.

“Our report to the public has no data about our demographic differences” that define the achievement gap, Luth said. “I’m greatly bothered by that.”

Luth said he trusts that the district is addressing the problem through curriculum and instructional improvements described in the report.

“But we do need to see the statistics, and we do need to be honest with our public about that. That’s what’s going on in our district,” said Luth, who said he’s “ashamed” of the 30-plus-percent difference between white and black students in math.

Board Member Jim Schmid said he’d like the report to reflect the district’s demographic changes from year to year to show “what we’re up against.”

There is evidence of progress, said Delonna Darsow, the district’s assessment director.

Black students made significant gains in reading over the past year, and their progress over three years is “truly something to celebrate,” Darsow said.

Year-over-year math scores also show evidence that “our work at closing the achievement is beginning to pay off,” she said.

Regardless of what the report shows, the district is keeping close track of students’ scores by group, said  Chris Lindholm, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Loading the annual report with all the data would be unworkable, Lindholm said.

“Indeed we do have achievement gaps upward of 30-plus percent,” he said, telling Luth that he took his comments as “encouragement for the work that we’re doing, and if anything, step it up.”