Mixed MCA results for Lakeview, Hawthorne

Published 10:05 pm Monday, October 7, 2019

Numbers from Hawthorne and Lakeview elementary schools followed generally the state into a drop from last year’s performance, but both building principals found some encouraging data points amongst largely lower Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment growth and proficiency measurements.

For Hawthorne Elementary School Principal John Mahal, student growth in some noted areas was promising. Lakeview Elementary School Principal Nick Sofio showed MCA proficiency that declined for several grades and student groups but still surpassed the state rate.

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Assessment results declined across the state, both Albert Lea Area Schools board member Dennis Dieser and Mahal noted at Monday night’s school board meeting. Why is not immediately clear, Mahal said; snow days, maybe, or perhaps harder MCA tests.

“It’s hard to say,” he said.

Academic achievement among third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students in math assessments from the 2018-19 school year was down slightly from the year prior, to 42.8% of students proficient at math, and below the state’s 55.5% average.

“It’s not necessarily the trend that we are hoping for,” Mahal said.

Third and fourth graders both improved their MCA scores in math, while fifth graders saw a 16.6% drop in the percent of students testing proficient from the previous year. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Education, 20.3% of Hawthorne’s fifth-grade students tested as proficient in math.

“When everyone saw that, it was kind of a ‘Woah,’” Mahal said. “‘What happened here?’”

But student growth in third- and fourth-grade math was high, with 74.2% of fourth-grade students displaying medium or high growth in math.

“Although the data itself isn’t, in terms of the actual achievement, doesn’t look where we want it to be, we did have some nice growth overall, especially in the reading area,” Mahal said.

All together, 72.8% of fourth and fifth graders displayed medium to high growth in reading.

Still, the achievement “is not showing up” in reading, either, Mahal said, with a 16% decline in the percent of fifth-grade students deemed proficient in reading.

Fifth graders also take a science assessment, and the percent of students who were proficient in science dropped by just over 4% to 48%. The state average is 54.9%.

Lakeview Elementary

Both schools were above the district and state averages for English learner benchmarks, including progress toward individual growth and the percent of students meeting their targets.

Compared to the state, Lakeview students are performing above average. But compared to themselves, that picture is different, Sofio said. In math proficiency, Lakeview’s third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students are outperforming the statewide average significantly — by almost 20%. However, the percent of Lakeview students proficient in math in 2018-19, 72.8%, dropped by 3.1% from the year before.

Sofio said he is happy with that number as a standalone, but that bringing the students back up to a higher proficiency rate will require additional work with students and staff.

Where third grade showed an increase in the percent of proficient students in math from the previous year and fifth grade’s 6.4% increase in the percent of students found proficient is “certainly an area for us to celebrate,” Sofio said, fourth-grade math proficiency took a more than 20% dip from 84.8% of students proficient to 64.3%.

Furthermore, the fifth graders did not demonstrate as much growth in math as expected from a high-performing group, Sofio said.

Reading continues to be a focus for Lakeview, as the student need “hasn’t changed this year at all,” Sofio said. Altogether, third, fourth and fifth graders had a 1.3% increase in percent of students proficient in reading. Third graders and fifth graders showed an increase in proficiency — 10.5% more tested as proficient in third and more than 5% more in fifth — but fourth graders took a significant dip for the second year in a row. Last school year, 47.5% of fourth graders tested as proficient in reading, while the prior year 60.6% tested proficient and two school years ago tested at 71.4% proficient.

“This is one area that has caused some concern in our building,” Sofio said.

Examining reading scores by subgroups showed Sofio that there was a significant decrease in performance by male students and students eligible for free and reduced lunches across third, fourth and fifth grade, he said.

“We can see that there are some pods of students from different areas that maybe we’re not reaching,” he said.

In science, 60.3% of students tested as proficient, down from 77.8% last year. The state average is 54.9%.

Both schools have also identified ways to support student learning, the building principals said.

“We are definitely doing our best to make plans that will turn this around and hopefully turn this around quickly to again match the work that we are doing as a building,” Mahal said.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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