Albert Lea School District has mixed results on MCA tests

Published 8:00 pm Monday, August 7, 2017

District leaders to begin to analyze the results

The 2017 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments scores were released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Albert Lea School District saw both gains and losses in the released results, although Superintendent Mike Funk attributed a portion of the negative results to students opting out of the exams.

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“At Albert Lea High School, we have had a large number of students opt out of the testing — which has skewed the results in a negative manner,” Funk said. Approximately 160 eligible students in the school district did not take the MCA exams last year, as their parents chose to opt them out of state testing in eighth and 10th grade.

“Albert Lea Area Schools have begun analysis of the 2017 MCA data. As the district analyzes the data, we look at student proficiency and growth,” Funk said. “Individual student growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year is as an important factor for us as student proficiency is.”

Grade level, school and subject are taken into account when looking for opportunities in the district’s test results. Math, reading and science are tested on the MCA tests.

Besides some negative results, the school district saw growth in a few areas across the district, including reading and math. Approximately 5 percent of the students in the district achieved greater individual growth in math and reading in 2017 than they did in 2016.

Funk said in regards to student proficiency, initial reports indicate that the district has seen a significant increase at Southwest Middle School in both reading and math. However, he said the elementary scores across town are mixed. For example, Lakeview scores in math remained flat, while Hawthorne saw increases — 58.6 percent of the Hawthorne students met or exceeded standards in math; this percentage is an increase of 3.7 percent since 2016.

Sibley and Halverson’s math scores decreased since last year’s results were released, although Sibley’s scores were still higher than Hawthorne’s results in math this year. In 2015, 81.8 percent of Sibley Elementary students met or exceeded standards in math; in 2016, 68.9 percent met or exceeded standards in math; in Monday’s 2017 results, 61.7 percent met or exceeded standards in math.

In 2015, 53.9 percent of Halverson Elementary students met or exceeded standards in math; in 2016, 55.5 percent met or exceeded standards in math; and in Monday’s 2017 results, 48.2 percent met or exceeded standards in math.

In the MCA test results, the elementary schools saw decreases in meeting or exceeding standards in reading. Lakeview saw a decrease of 0.2 percent, Halverson saw a decrease of 9.5 percent, Hawthorne saw a decrease by 5.4 percent and Sibley saw a decrease in 5.7 percent in meeting or exceeding standards in reading.

In science, the school district saw the highest level of students categorized as “partially meets standards” or “does not meet standards” since 2015 in all grades combined — 39.6 percent of the district met or exceeded standards in science on the MCA test results. In comparison, 53.9 percent of the state met or exceeded standards in science on the 2017 MCA test results.

At the high school, 32.6 percent of students met or exceeded standards in math, and 41.4 percent of high school students met or exceeded standards in reading.

Twenty-eight percent of students at the high school met or exceeded standards in science.

Positive results were shown in Albert Lea in the English learner population of students — this category significantly outperformed the state average on MCA proficiency tests. Albert Lea School District students learning English scored 8.6 percent higher in math than the statewide average, 3.9 percent higher in reading and about the same as the state average in science.

“Overall we will study these results to identify trend data, and make adjustments as we continuously attempt to best meet the needs of our students,” Funk said.

This is the first year in which MCA data is reported with new federally required ethnicity and race categories, in accordance with the U.S. Department of Education. The change allows individuals to self-identify their ethnicity and race using an expanded number of categories from the previous five groups to the new seven. This means that for the first time, the department is able to report on students identifying as more than one race and/or ethnicity.

“Test scores are just one part of the picture to understand how students are doing in Minnesota,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a press release. “It’s frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there’s more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test.”

MCA data and results appear on the easy-to-use Minnesota Report Card website, which can be accessed at

About Evelyn Seffinga

Evelyn Seffinga covers education and arts and culture for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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