District 191 lags state on MCAs

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 lagged the state in the percentage of students meeting proficiency on state tests given in April.

Results of the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, released Aug. 27, show only District 191 sixth-graders outpacing state averages for proficiency in reading and math, according to district officials.

In reading, 53.4 percent of District 191 students tested met proficiency, compared with 57.8 percent of students statewide, according to Minnesota Department of Education figures.

In math, 54.5 percent of district students tested met proficiency, compared with 61.2 percent statewide.

In science, 47.3 percent of students tested met proficiency, compared with 52.1 percent statewide.

District 191 has a different racial and economic profile than other south suburban districts that reported better MCA numbers. Among test-takers in reading, for example, 44.3  were minority students in District 191, compared with 26.8 percent statewide. About 44 percent of district students qualified for free or reduced-price  meals last school year.

The MCA results show a persistent achievement gap between white and nonwhite students and between middle-class students and those living in poverty, the district said.

“It’s our job to find a way to help every child succeed, regardless of what those demographics are,” said Cindy Amoroso, assistant superintendent for instruction, who joined the district in July.

“Our goal is that every student in Burnsville is proficient and has growth in their experience here,” she said. “For the student who is struggling, we want that student to grow and we want that student to hit proficiency and beyond. For the student that’s proficient, we want to push them and see how far they’re able to get.”

Officials point to other indicators of student achievement beyond MCA results. The district also gives the nationally normed Measures of Academic Progress test. Scores on MAPS reading tests given this spring in grades one through nine exceeded national norms in every grade, Amoroso said.

On the ACT college-entrance exam, Burnsville High School students notched an average composite score of 23.2, topping the state average of 23. District 191 is one of 11 in Minnesota that received a national honor for increasing students’ access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students in grades nine through 12 who earn high AP scores.
MCA scores down statewide

Statewide, MCA scores declined in reading, especially, but also in math, and District 191 said its scores followed that trend.

The state gave a more rigorous reading test that aligns with the Common Core, a national set of grade-level skills standards, the district said.

In other MCA highlights, the district reported year-over-year improvements in math, with students in all subgroups except limited English proficiency posting gains.

Students in grades three and 11 had “notable” increases in math, the district said, and black and Hispanic students posted improved scores.

Last year the district piloted an elementary math curriculum called Math in Focus, commonly known as Singapore math.

“It’s not just about what you’re learning, it’s about how you’re learning it and how the teacher is using different instructional strategies to help you get there,” Amoroso said.

“We’re excited that we’re able to provide this program now districtwide for the first time this year,” she said. “It was a pilot last year. We’re very excited to watch the impact that this program will have for us over a period of years.”

In language arts, the district has been more closely aligning its study units with the Common Core standards, Amoroso said.

The district uses MCA results to focus on improvement efforts such as curriculum development and professional development for teachers, Amoroso said.