Test scores show progress, lingering gaps in District 191

The latest round of state test results shows areas of improvement in School District 191 along with a persistent achievement gap between white students and other racial groups, and between middle-class students and those in poverty, the district announced.

Results from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests taken in April were released this week by the Minnesota Department of Education, as the first of a two-phase release of data. Next month, the 2013 Multiple Measurement Ratings scores will be delivered.

These yearly tests, required by state and federal law, are intended to help schools gauge students’ progress in meeting expectations of Minnesota state standards for reading, math and science.

Statewide, student scores declined in reading, especially, but also slightly in math. Scores in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District 191 followed that trend, the district said in a news release.

State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius attributes this to a more rigorous state reading test that is aligned with the Common Core, a national initiative that outlines what skills students need to have in math and reading at each grade level.

Cassellius also explained that because the tests changed this year, results should not be compared with previous years’ scores.

“It’s important to look at today’s tests results for what they are: a snapshot in time that tells us how students are doing in mastering our state standards,” she said.

Of note in this year’s District 191 test results:

• Sixth-graders were above the state average in reading.

• All student groups increased in math with the exception of students with limited English proficiency.

• Grade three and 11 had notable increases in math.

• Black and Hispanic students made progress in their math scores.

• An achievement gap persists between white students and other racial groups, and between middle class students and those in poverty.

“As a district we remain committed to continued academic progress for all students,” Superintendent Joe Gothard said. “Relationships, attendance and engagement are essential. If you erase any of the three, there’s going to be a breakdown in learning.”

He also emphasized the importance of schools, families and communities as partners in student learning and success.

The district has taken several steps to improve student scores. Gothard said a lot of work has gone into aligning the curriculum to state standards and to building a curriculum library for teachers. Teachers participate in a wide variety of professional learning aimed at continuous progress for students.

Last year, the district switched to Math in Focus, commonly called Singapore math, for its elementary math curriculum. The curriculum aligns with the Common Core and Minnesota Academic Standards and is designed to deepen students’ understanding of math concepts — the “why,” not just the “how.”

Also, the district now has a broader representation of interventionists working individually or with small groups of students who are performing below grade level to bring them up to speed.