Albert Lea elementary test scores below state average

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002

ST. PAUL (AP) &045; Albert Lea elementary-school students scored lower than the state average on reading and math tests, with scores for fifth-grade math tests the farthest behind.

In third grade, Albert Lea students had an average score of 1441.9 on reading tests, compared to a state average of 1486.2, and scored 1457.2 on math, with the state average at 1486.

In fifth grade, the Albert Lea district average was 1506 for reading, below the state average of 1552.4, an 1431.8 for math, compared to a 1502.6 state average for that category.

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Locally, around 250 students in each of grades 3 and 5 took the tests.

Statewide, officials told schools and parents Tuesday that test results for last year’s third- and fifth-graders changed little from the year before.

There were slight drops on the third-grade math tests and respectable gains on fifth-grade writing exams. Elsewhere, scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments were mostly static.

But in a departure from past years when the state education department seized mainly on the positives, officials struck a more serious tone this time. That’s due partly to the added significance of the tests, which eventually will be used to identify failing schools under the new federal education law.

A top Department of Children, Families and Learning official said the agency hasn’t determined the exact weight to place on these scores in deciding which schools get the new designation. The law gives parents more power to pull their kids out of struggling schools or have them tutored at public expense.

&uot;Educators and schools should get ready for that kind of accountability,&uot; said Jessie Montano, the assistant commissioner for teaching and learning.

More than 58,600 third-graders took the reading and math exams in March. Some 61,000 fifth-graders took reading, math and writing exams. Scoring is usually complete in midsummer but officials pushed it back this year due to budget constraints.

Students are not scored on a pass-fail basis. They get both a raw score and are grouped into achievement levels: Level I, for students performing below grade level; Level II &045; now separated into IIa and IIb categories &045; at or near grade level; Level III, above grade level; and Level IV, &uot;well above&uot; grade level.

The tests, first given in 1998, measure elementary students’ grasp of the subjects and give a sense of how they might handle the state’s Profile of Learning standards and graduation tests.

For fifth-graders, 63 percent performed above their grade level in reading, 66 percent reached that benchmark in writing and 53 percent did so in math. That compares with last year’s performance of 63 percent in reading, 55 percent in writing and 50 percent in math. Fewer students were grouped in the lowest level in each subject.

For this year’s third-graders, 49 percent read above their grade level and 48 percent excelled in math. A year ago, it was 49 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

The scores will factor into school assessment under the new &uot;No Child Left Behind&uot; law. The law, approved last year by Congress and signed by President Bush in January, spells out consequences for schools that continually struggle to meet a certain threshold for all students &045; including minorities, poor children, those in special education and those learning English.

After three years, a school district must offer tutoring at its expense. After four years, it must begin paying transportation costs of students who opt to attend other schools. States themselves determine how tough tests and standards are.

Fred Storti, executive director of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association, said the law gives school leaders an extra reason to delve deeper into the test results, spot trends and adjust curricula.

&uot;We are attempting to be more data-driven in these decisions,&uot; Storti said.

Some principals, he said, worry about how the tests will be used, especially how scores are compared from year to year. They have been relating concerns to a state panel figuring out how to implement the new federal law.

&uot;Our principals believe in accountability,&uot; Storti said. &uot;Our challenge is agreeing on what accountability is. There’s a whole lot of definitions.&uot;

Unlike the basic skills tests Minnesota students first take in eighth-grade, the elementary school exams are used mostly as a barometer and are not linked to graduation.

&uot;For the parent, it’s good to know that my child got this score and therefore they are functioning at this level,&uot; Montano said. &uot;As a school, I would want to know how the different subgroups are doing with respect to the concept being tested. If they are not doing well, why might that be?&uot;


On the Net:

Results for specific districts and schools can be found at:

Our area’s scores

Following are average test results from school districts in the area on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Source: Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.

Grade/Subject, Average Score, Number tested

Albert Lea School District

Grade 3, Reading, 1441.9, 252

Grade 3, Math, 1457.2, 247

Grade 5, Reading, 1506.0, 247

Grade 5, Math. 1431.8, 249

Alden-Conger School District

Grade 3, Reading, 1459.5, 19

Grade 3, Math, 1431.0, 20

Grade 5, Reading, 1548.1, 26

Grade 5, Math, 1578.1, 26

Glenville-Emmons School District

Grade 3, Reading, 1456.7, 45

Grade 3, Math, 1476.7, 45

Grade 5, Reading, 1536.1, 28

Grade 5, Math, 1456.6, 29


Grade 3, Reading, 1544.4, 70

Grade 3, Math, 1526.3, 70

Grade 5, Reading, 1614.3, 76

Grade 5, Math, 1513.3, 77

United South Central

Grade 3, Reading, 1437.2, 67

Grade 3, Math, 1433.0, 67

Grade 5, Reading, 1531.0, 68

Grade 5, Math, 1514.4, 68


Grade 3, Reading, 1486.2, 58,685

Grade 3, Math, 1486.0, 58,653

Grade 5, Reading, 1552.4, 61,217

Grade 5, Math, 1502.6, 60,832